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Two studies investigating the cognitive processes associated with anticipatory social anxiety are reported. Study 1 used a semi-structured interview to compare high and low socially anxious individuals ( [Formula: see text] per group) in terms of their reported mental processes during periods of anticipatory social anxiety. Study 2 investigated the anxiety inducing effects of the mental processes that were shown to be characteristic of high socially anxious individuals in Study 1. Prior to giving a speech, high and low socially anxious individuals ( [Formula: see text] per group) either engaged in these processes or performed a distraction task. The results of Study 1 were broadly consistent with Clark and Wells' (In: R.G. Heimberg, M. Liebowitz, D.A. Hope, F.R. Schneier (Eds.), Social phobia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 69-93). New York: Guilford Press, 1995) hypotheses about the nature of anticipatory processing in social anxiety. Study 2 showed that, compared to distraction, engaging in the mental processes characteristic of high socially anxious individuals was associated with sustained elevations of anticipatory anxiety in both high and low socially anxious individuals, and led to higher levels of peak anxiety during the speech. The findings suggest that high and low socially anxious individuals show systematic differences in their mental processes prior to a stressful social event, and are consistent with the suggestion that these differences play an important role in sustaining anticipatory anxiety.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry

Publication Date





205 - 218


Adolescent, Adult, Anxiety, Case-Control Studies, Cognition, Female, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Personality Inventory, Phobic Disorders, Pilot Projects, Self-Assessment, Social Behavior, Speech, Test Anxiety Scale, Time Factors