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Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Jan 1;51(1):92-100.

Information processing in social phobia.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK.


Cognitive theories suggest that information processing biases play a central role in the development and maintenance of emotional disorders. The present article reviews recent studies of information processing biases in social phobia and considers the significance of the findings for understanding the persistence of the condition. Taken together, the studies suggest that social phobia is characterized by biases in the following: interpretation of external social events; detection of negative responses from other people; the balance of attention between external and self-processing; the use of internal information to make inferences about how one appears to others; recall of negative information about one's perceived, observable self; and by a variety of problematic anticipatory and post-event types of processing. If such biases play a role in maintaining social anxiety, experimental manipulation of the biases should modulate anxiety responses. Several recent studies have confirmed this prediction, but further research is required. Methodological limitations of existing information processing studies are highlighted. Finally, possible neurobiological correlates are discussed and suggestions are made for future attempts to link neurobiology and cognitive psychology.

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