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Previous research with an on-line processing task found that individuals without social anxiety generate benign inferences when ambiguous social information is encountered, but people with high social anxiety or social phobia do not (Hirsch and Mathews, 1997, 2000). In the present study, we tested if it is possible to induce a benign (or less negative) inferential bias in people who report anxiety about interviews by requiring them to take the perspective of an interview confident person, rather than their own. High interview anxious volunteers were allocated to read descriptions of job interviews, either taking their own perspective in the described situation or that of a confident interviewee. At certain points during the text, a target letter string appeared and participants were asked to indicate whether it formed a word or a non-word (lexical decision). Some of the lexical decisions occurred in the context of ambiguous text that could be interpreted in both a threatening and a benign manner. In a baseline condition, decisions were made following text for which there was only one possible inference (either threat or benign). The results indicated that, compared to the self referent condition, participants who adopted the perspective of a confident other person showed enhanced inhibition of threat inferences.

Original publication




Journal article


Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Publication Date





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