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A substantial literature indicates that anxiety is often associated with selective attention to threat cues. Socially anxious individuals are excessively concerned about negative evaluation by others. One might therefore predict that high social anxiety would be associated with selective attention to negative facial expressions. On the other hand, some recent models have suggested that social anxiety may be associated with reduced processing of external social cues. A modified dot-probe task was used to investigate face attention. High and low socially anxious individuals were presented with pairs of pictures, consisting of a face (positive, neutral, or negative) and a household object, under conditions of social-evaluative threat or no threat. The results indicated that, compared to low socially anxious individuals, high socially anxious individuals show an attentional bias away from emotional (positive and negative) faces but this effect is only observed under conditions of social-evaluative threat. Theoretical and clinical implications of the results are discussed. © 1999 Psychology Press Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date





673 - 690