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Cognitive-behavioral models of clinical problems typically postulate a role for the combined effects of different cognitive biases in the maintenance of a given disorder. It is striking therefore that research has tended to examine cognitive biases in isolation rather than assessing how they work together to maintain psychological dysfunction. The combined cognitive biases hypothesis presented here suggests that cognitive biases influence each another and can interact to maintain a given disorder. Furthermore, it is proposed that the combined effects of cognitive biases may have a greater impact on sustaining a given disorder than if the biases operated in isolation. The combined cognitive biases hypothesis is examined in relation to imagery and interpretation in social phobia. Individuals with social phobia experience negative images of themselves performing poorly in social situations, and they also interpret external social information in a less positive way than those without social anxiety. Evidence of a reciprocal relationship between imagery and interpretations is presented, and the mechanisms underlying the combined effects are discussed. Clinical implications and the potential utility of examining the combined influence of other cognitive biases are highlighted.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Ther

Publication Date





223 - 236


Affective Symptoms, Cognition, Humans, Imagination, Phobic Disorders, Psychological Theory, Self Concept, Set (Psychology), Social Perception