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J Anxiety Disord. 2003;17(5):517-31.

Selective attentional bias related to the noticeability aspect of anxiety symptoms in generalized social phobia.

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Anxiety Disorders Service, Douglas Hospital, Verdun, Que., Canada.


Persons with generalized social phobia were compared to nonanxious controls using the modified Stroop test of attentional biases and self-report questionnaires. Results indicated that participants with social phobia showed attentional biases to socially threatening words such as those describing negative evaluation (e.g., criticize) and those describing anxiety symptoms that are noticeable by others (e.g., blushing) as compared to nonanxious control participants, but not to words describing anxiety symptoms that are less noticeable to others. Participants with social phobia showed more attentional bias to words denoting noticeable anxiety symptoms than to words denoting less noticeable anxiety symptoms, while nonanxious control participants showed no significant difference in attentional bias between words denoting more and less noticeable anxiety symptoms. Color-naming response latencies to these social threat words (negative evaluation and noticeable anxiety symptoms) were significantly positively correlated to scores on self-report measures of social anxiety and distress, while response latencies to less noticeable anxiety symptoms were not significantly correlated to other measures of anxiety or distress. Results support presence of specific attentional biases in persons with generalized social phobia, and highlight importance of the noticeability aspect of anxiety symptoms to the psychopathology of social phobia.

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