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An Investigation of the Autobiographical Memory Biases of Socially Anxious Individuals

By Rose K. St. Clair


The current study investigated the autobiographical memory biases of socially anxious individuals by examining the properties of recalled memories. Socially anxious individuals tend to recall specific kinds of autobiographical memories that are more negative, more vivid, and more significant, as well as recalled from an observer perspective. These known biases should be stronger in anxiety-provoking settings, such as in the presence of others. In this study, individuals who received high scores and individuals who received low scores on the mini-Social Phobia Inventory were compared. Participants either completed the study alone or in small groups. Participants completed a word-cued autobiographical memory retrieval task that included individual situation word cues (e.g. “study”) and social situation word cues (e.g. “discussion”). Participants rated their memories on a series of scales measuring emotional impact, vividness, personal significance, and perspective. Participants also reported their current affective states. The findings of this study revealed that running participants in small groups was not an anxiety-provoking situation, though a subtle effect on participants' affective states (levels of upset and cheerfulness) was found. The findings also revealed that memories recalled to individual situation word cues did not differ greatly from those recalled to social situation word cues. However, there were relationships found between mini-SPIN score and several properties of the memories recalled to social situation word cues such that these memories were more negative and recalled from an observer perspective. These results suggest that there are particular kinds of autobiographical memory biases for socially anxious individuals. Results also emphasize the need for future research

Topics: Psychology, Autobiographical memory, Social anxiety disorder, Social phobia
Publisher: The College of William and Mary in Virginia
Year: 2013
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