Prominent theories of social anxiety disorder (SAD) describe the role of attentional bias in the disorder's etiology and maintenance; some models implicate bias toward social threats (e.g., Rapee
& Heimberg, 1997) and others implicate bias to avoid them (e.g., Clark & Wells, 1995). The present
investigation examined: 1) whether a clinical sample of individuals with SAD comprises two distinct groups based on attention bias for social threat (vigilant, avoidant), and 2) group-specific changes in attention bias following cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for SAD. Consistent with predictions, results yielded evidence of two pre-treatment groups (vigilant and avoidant). After eight weeks of treatment, the direction of change in attention bias differed between groups, such that the vigilant group became less vigilant, and the avoidant group became less avoidant, with the avoidant group showing a significant change in attention bias from pre- to post-treatment. These findings provide preliminary support for the hypothesis that SAD comprises subgroups with both threat vigilant and threat avoidant attentional styles and change in different directions following treatment. Implications for how individuals who exhibit one attentional bias or the other may differentially respond to treatment are discussed.
Calamaras, Martha R.; Tone, Erin; and Anderson, Page L., "Subtypes of Attentional Bias within Social Anxiety Disorder: Evaluating Changes following Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" (2012). Psychology Faculty Publications. 142.