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J Abnorm Psychol. 1998 May;107(2):285-90.

Automatic activation and strategic avoidance of threat-relevant information in social phobia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19129, USA.


The authors examined the hypothesis that abnormalities in activation and inhibition of threat-relevant information may account for information-processing biases in social anxiety. Individuals with generalized social phobia (GSP) and nonanxious controls were presented with sentences ending in homographs and in nonhomographs and were asked to make decisions about a cue word that followed each sentence. Half of the homographs had a social-threat implication. Longer response latency to make decisions about sentences ending in homographs compared with sentences ending in nonhomographs is thought to reflect activation of the inappropriate meaning of the homographs. Results revealed that GSPs showed initial activation of inappropriate meanings of socially relevant homographs followed by later inhibition of these meanings. These findings are consistent with a vigilance-avoidance model of information processing of threat-relevant information in social phobia.

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