We investigated the role of self-reports and behavioral measures of interpretation biases and their content-specificity in children with varying levels of spider fear and/or social anxiety. In total, 141 selected children from a community sample completed an interpretation bias task with scenarios that were related to either spider threat or social threat. Specific interpretation biases were found; only spider-related interpretation bias and self-reported spider fear predicted unique variance in avoidance behavior on the Behavior Avoidance Task for spiders. Likewise, only social-threat related interpretation bias and self-reported social anxiety predicted anxiety during the Social Speech Task. These findings support the hypothesis that fearful children display cognitive biases that are specific to particular fear-relevant stimuli. Clinically, this insight might be used to improve treatments for anxious children by targeting content-specific interpretation biases related to individual disorders.
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- interpretation bias
- spider fear
- social anxiety