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Circumscribed versus generalized subtypes of social phobia: A cognitive psychophysiological investigation

Lewin, Michael R.
Scope and Method of Study: This study examined differences in cognitive processing of public speaking anxious and generally socially anxious individuals via imagery and Stroop color-naming assessments. From a pool of psychology students, 48 subjects were chosen for inclusion into one of three gender-balanced groups: (a) high in both public speaking and general social anxieties (generalized group), (b) high in public speaking anxiety and low in general social anxiety (circumscribed group), or (c) low in both types of anxiety (control group). Cardiac and verbal data were collected as subjects imagined a variety of scenes (e.g., speech and conversation). Additionally, subjects color-named anxiety as well as control words in Stroop tasks.
Findings and Conclusions: Subjects high in both social and public speaking anxieties manifested greater reports of negative evaluation fears, more generalized social anxieties, and more arousal in social scenes than their circumscribed speech anxious counterparts. Also, both anxiety groups demonstrated more reports of social anxiety, and less reports of dominance and positive valence while imagining speech scenes, as compared to the control group. Speech scenes created greater cardiac acceleration over baseline than neutral scenes. Findings are discussed in relation to the bioinformational theory of emotion. Diagnostic implications are also considered.