Fear of evaluation in social anxiety: Mediation of attentional bias to human faces
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Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a debilitating psychological disorder characterised by excessive fears of one or more social or performance situations, where there is potential for evaluation by others. A recently expanded cognitive-behavioural model of SAD emphasizes that both the fear of negative evaluation (FNE) and the fear of positive evaluation (FPE) contribute to enduring symptoms of SAD. Research also suggests that socially anxious individuals may show biases toward threat relevant stimuli, such as angry faces. The current study utilised a modified version of the pictorial dot-probe task in order to examine whether FNE and FPE mediate the relationship between social anxiety and an attentional bias. A group of 38 participants with moderate to high levels of self-reported social anxiety were tested in groups of two to four people and were advised that they would be required to deliver an impromptu speech. All participants then completed an assessment of attentional bias using angry-neutral, happy-neutral, and angry-happy face pairs. Conditions were satisfied for only one mediation model, indicating that the relationship between social anxiety and attentional avoidance of angry faces was mediated by FPE. These findings have important clinical implications for types of treatment concerning cognitive symptoms of SAD, along with advancing models of social anxiety. Limitations and ideas for future research from the current study were also discussed.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
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Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology