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Anxious Anticipation: the Consequences of Anticipatory Processing on Cognitive Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Mills, Adam Charles
Much research has examined factors of Clark and Wells' (1995) cognitive model of social anxiety (e.g., attention, interpretation), but very little has examined anticipatory processing, which is hypothesized to interact with components in that model. In the current study, individuals high (HSA; N = 57) and low (LSA; N = 66) in social anxiety symptoms engaged in either an anticipation (e.g., Hinrichsen & Clark, 2003) or distraction task prior to a threatened social interaction. HSA participants who anticipated had higher self-focused attention than LSA participants who anticipated. Individuals who anticipated (regardless of social anxiety status) had more desire to avoid the upcoming interaction and endorsed slightly more negative interpretations of social situations (p = .07). Anticipation was not associated with any changes in self-reported anxiety level, nor was it associated with higher anxiety prior to the upcoming perceived social interaction. Implications of these results in the context of Clark and Wells (1995) and future directions for this line of research are discussed.