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The role of cognitive processing in adolescents with social phobia

Cynthia Marie Walljasper McWilliams, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to extend the literature on cognitive processing biases in adults with social phobia to an adolescent population. Adolescents with social phobia were compared with adolescents without a clinical diagnosis on measures of cognitive processing biases in attention, implicit memory, and explicit memory. Comparisons were made regarding experimental task performance in the presence of different types of concerns or emotional information (i.e., words relevant to persons with social phobia, words relevant to persons with depression, and words relevant to persons in high school). Dissociations were examined between primarily conceptual and primarily perceptual tasks of encoding and memory, as well as between implicit and explicit memory. ^ Youth with social phobia did not differ from youth without diagnoses on measures of attention and memory bias. This lack of differences between the two groups may indicate that models of attention and memory biases in adults with social phobia do not generalize to adolescents. Furthermore, adolescent models may need to incorporate developmental perspectives that focus on adolescence as a time of increased self-consciousness and awareness of interpersonal consequences, with all adolescents expected to show heightened attention toward socially threatening information. ^ Differences were found regarding type of cognitive processing and type of concern word involved. All participants showed attention and implicit memory biases on the conceptual tasks and explicit memory biases on the perceptual tasks. In addition, on the conceptual tasks all participants showed attentional bias toward socially threatening information and away from high school relevant information, with no bias regarding depression relevant information. An implicit memory bias regarding social concerns was also found on the conceptual tasks, suggesting that all adolescents in the sample may have suppressed the social threat words, relative to neutral words. Findings highlight the importance of investigating specific cognitive processes, rather than global attention or memory functioning, in the role of information processing biases in social phobia. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Walljasper McWilliams, Cynthia Marie, "The role of cognitive processing in adolescents with social phobia" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9958399.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI9958399

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