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J Abnorm Psychol. 2019 Nov 7. doi: 10.1037/abn0000493. [Epub ahead of print]

Social anxiety is negatively associated with theory of mind and empathic accuracy.

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Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University.
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California.
Department of Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University.


Social anxiety interferes with accurate perceptions of others' thoughts and intentions, yet studies examining the association between social anxiety and social cognition have resulted in mixed findings. We examined the association between dimensional levels of social anxiety and assessments of lower- and higher-level social cognition. In Study 1 (n = 1485), we found that social anxiety was negatively related to accuracy in an assessment of higher-level social cognition (i.e., theory of mind) across all stimuli. However, no consistent association was found between social anxiety and accuracy in an assessment of lower-level social cognition (i.e., emotion recognition). In Study 2 (n = 363), we found that social anxiety was negatively associated with another higher-level form of social cognition, empathic accuracy, for positive but not negative stimuli. These findings demonstrate that social anxiety is negatively associated with higher-level social cognition but not lower-level social cognition, and this association appears to be more consistent for positive stimuli. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).


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