Research on cognitive theories of social anxiety disorder (SAD) has identified individual processes that influence this condition (e.g., cognitive biases, repetitive negative thinking), but few studies have attempted to examine the interaction between these processes. For example, attentional biases and anticipatory processing are theoretically related and have been found to influence symptoms of SAD, but they rarely have been studied together (i.e., Clark & Wells, 1995). Therefore, the goal of the current study was to examine the effect of anticipatory processing on attentional bias for internal (i.e., heart rate feedback) and external (i.e., emotional faces) threat information. A sample of 59 participants high (HSA) and low (LSA) in social anxiety symptoms engaged in a modified dot-probe task prior to (Time 1) and after (Time 2) an anticipatory processing or distraction task. HSAs who anticipated experienced an increase in attentional bias for internal information from Time 1 to Time 2, whereas HSAs in the distraction condition and LSAs in either condition experienced no changes. No changes in biases were found for HSAs for external biases, but LSAs who engaged in the distraction task became less avoidant of emotional faces from Time 1 to Time 2. This suggests that anticipatory processing results in an activation of attentional biases for physiological information as suggested by Clark and Wells.
- Anticipatory processing
- Attentional bias
- Combined cognitive bias hypothesis
- Social anxiety