Anticipatory processing in social anxiety: Investigation using attentional control theory
Embargoed until: 2019-12-01
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Background and Objectives: Cognitive models of social anxiety disorder (SAD) emphasize anticipatory processing as a prominent maintaining factor occurring before social-evaluative events. While anticipatory processing is a maladaptive process, the cognitive mechanisms that underlie ineffective control of attention are still unclear. The present study tested predictions derived from attentional control theory in a sample of undergraduate students high and low on social anxiety symptoms. Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to either engage in anticipatory processing prior to a threat of a speech task or a control condition with no social evaluative threat. After completing a series of questionnaires, participants performed pro-saccades and antisaccades in response to peripherally presented facial expressions presented in either single-task or mixed-task blocks. Results: Correct antisaccade latencies were longer than correct pro-saccade latencies in-line with attentional control theory. High socially anxious individuals who anticipated did not exhibit impairment on the inhibition and shifting functions compared to high socially anxious individuals who did not anticipate or low socially anxious individuals in either the anticipatory or control condition. Low socially anxious individuals who anticipated exhibited shorter antisaccade latencies and a switch benefit compared to low socially anxious individuals in the control condition. Limitations: The study used an analogue sample; however findings from analogue samples are generally consistent with clinical samples. Conclusions: The findings suggest that social threat induced anticipatory processing facilitates executive functioning for low socially anxious individuals when anticipating a social-evaluative situation.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
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Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology