Theory of Mind Impairments in Social Anxiety Disorder
hezel & mcnally 2014 behavior therapy.pdf (216.9Kb)
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CitationHezel, Dianne M., and Richard J. McNally. 2014. “Theory of Mind Impairments in Social Anxiety Disorder.” Behavior Therapy 45 (4) (July): 530–540. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2014.02.010.
AbstractSocial anxiety disorder (SAD) is a common psychiatric disorder characterized by a persistent, excessive fear and avoidance of social and performance situations. Research on cognitive biases indicates individuals with SAD may lack an accurate view of how they are perceived by others, especially in social situations when they allocate important attentional resources to monitoring their own actions as well as external threat. In the present study, we explored whether socially anxious individuals also have impairments in theory of mind (ToM), or the ability to comprehend others’ mental states, including emotions, beliefs, and intentions. Forty socially anxious and 40 non-socially-anxious comparison participants completed two ToM tasks: the Reading the Mind in the Eyes and the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition. Participants with SAD performed worse on ToM tasks than did non-socially-anxious participants. Relative to comparison participants, those with SAD were more likely to attribute more intense emotions and greater meaning to what others were thinking and feeling. These group differences were not due to interpretation bias. The ToM impairments in people with SAD are in the opposite direction of those in people with autism spectrum conditions whose inferences about the mental states of other people are absent or very limited. This association between SAD and ToM may have important implications for our understanding of both the maintenance and treatment of social anxiety disorder.
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