In models of social phobia, anticipatory processing before a social-evaluative event is a key maintaining factor for the disorder. This study investigated the impact of anticipatory processing versus distraction before a social-evaluative task on affective (self-reported anxiety), psychophysiological (skin conductance), cognitive (self-reported maladaptive self-beliefs) and behavioural (in-situation performance) responses of participants. High and low socially anxious undergraduates were randomly allocated to either an anticipatory processing or distraction condition, and then completed an impromptu speech task. Relative to distraction, anticipatory processing increased self-reported anxiety in all participants, and increased skin conductance and the strength of conditional and high standard beliefs in the high (but not low) socially anxious participants. Unconditional beliefs were not affected. For high socially anxious individuals, anticipatory processing was also indirectly associated with poorer speech performance by increasing self-reported anxiety. Anticipatory processing appears to have multiple adverse effects in socially anxious individuals.
- Anticipatory processing
- Social anxiety