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This study tests the causal role of negative self-imagery in social anxiety. Low public-speaking anxious volunteers rehearsed a negative self-image, a positive self-image or a control image prior to giving a speech. As predicted, the negative image group felt more anxious, believed they performed less well and reported more negative thoughts than the positive image group. These findings do not appear to be due to changes in state anxiety, since they remained unchanged when anxiety was controlled in an analysis of covariance. The negative image group also reported more anxiety than the control group. Given that participants do not currently have anxiety problems, the findings are consistent with the idea that negative self-imagery has a causal role in the development and maintenance of social anxiety.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry

Publication Date





159 - 170


Affect, Assertiveness, Humans, Imagination, Phobic Disorders, Self Concept, Speech, Surveys and Questionnaires