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Negative self-imagery in social anxiety contaminates social interactions

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Patients with social phobia report experiencing negative images of themselves performing poorly when in feared social situations. The present study investigates whether such negative self-imagery (based on memory of past social situations) contaminates social interactions. High socially anxious volunteers participated in two conversations with another volunteer (conversational partner). During one conversation, the socially anxious volunteers held in mind a negative self-image, and during the other they held in mind a less negative (control) self-image. As predicted, when holding the negative image the socially anxious volunteers felt more anxious, reported using more safety behaviours, believed that they performed more poorly, and showed greater overestimation of how poorly they came across (relative to ratings by the conversational partner). Conversational partners rated the socially anxious volunteers' performance as poorer in the negative image condition. Furthermore, the conversation was contaminated since both groups of participants rated its quality as poorer in the negative image condition.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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