Spurr, Jane M. and Stopa, Lusia
The observer perspective: effects on social anxiety and performance
Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41, (9), . (doi:10.1016/S0005-7967(02)00177-8).
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The cognitive model of social phobia by Clark and Wells (Social phobia: Diagnosis, Assessment and treatment (1995)) proposes that individuals with social phobia generate a negative impression of how they appear to others, constructed from their own thoughts, feelings and internal sensations. This impression can occur in the form of a visual image from an external, or "observer", perspective. Although social phobics use this perspective more than controls, the impact of the observer perspective has not been tested experimentally. This study investigated the effects of taking the observer perspective on thinking, anxiety, behaviour and social performance in high and low socially anxious participants. Forty-four participants (N=22 in each group) gave two speeches, one in the observer and one in the field perspective. Use of the observer perspective produced more frequent negative thoughts, more safety behaviours, and worse self-evaluation of performance in both groups. There were also clear trends demonstrating increases in anxiety and in thought belief ratings in the observer perspective compared to the field perspective. Results are consistent with the Clark and Wells model of social phobia. This study also suggests that in low socially anxious individuals, the observer perspective may contain positive information.
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