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Self-focused attention in social anxiety - an eye-tracking paradigm

English title Self-focused attention in social anxiety - an eye-tracking paradigm
Applicant Vriends Poespodihardjo Noortje Elisabeth
Number 135331
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Fakultät für Psychologie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.06.2011 - 30.04.2014
Approved amount 171'695.00
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Keywords (7)

social phobia; social anxiety disorder; self-focused attention; self-monitoring; self-awareness; social performance; eye-tracking

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Self-focused attentionis the attention that focuses on processes and appearance of the person self.When people focus their attention intensively at their inner processes and/orat their appearance instead of focusing their attention at the task at hand, theyoften have problems to perform their task at hand well. For example if a person(let’s call him John) tries to control not to stutter during a conversation byimaginatively rehearsing certain sentences extensively, he might forget toobserve his conversation partner. The conversation partner (let’s call her Eva)might think that John is not interested in what she is saying, or she mightfind John tensed. Eva’s  negative orincorrect thoughts about John are exactly those what John feared before andduring the conversation. Thus, through this process of extreme self-focusedattention John might be liked less and fear social situation involvingconversation in which he fears to stutter. If such or other fears to beevaluated negatively in social situations are intense and impair one’s dailyroutine, it might be a social anxiety disorder. In Europe almost every tenthperson suffers from this deliberating disorder at least once in a lifetime.

In scientific researchit has indeed been shown that people, who fill out at questionnaires that theytend to focus more at them selves during social situations also score higher atsocial anxiety symptom questionnaires. Though questionnaire research is notvery reliable, respectively does not tell very much about what come first. Dosocial anxious people focus more at them selves, because self-focused attentionis a symptom of social anxiety? Or does self-focused attention enhance andtherewith cause social anxiety? And how is the causal relationship betweensocial anxiety, self-focused attention and social performance?

The present project usesa new experimental paradigm, with which for the first time the causalrelationships between social anxiety, focus of attention at the own appearanceand social behavior can be investigated. Thirty female patients with a socialanxiety disorder and 30 women without such a disorder will come to ourlaboratory and have a conversation via a video conference, which means thatboth persons will watch a directly transferred video presentation of herselfand of the other person during the conversation. During this conversation thegaze behavior will be measured with an eye-tracker. To compare these laboratoryfindings with real-life situations, participants will also fill out a palm-topdiary in the morning and after social-anxiety-provoking situations for 7 days.This diary will include questions about (anticipatory) social anxiety, self-focusedattention, self-image, and distress in fearful social situations.

The significance of thisproposal lies in the novelty of the paradigm, which makes direct measurement ofself-focused attention during a social interaction situation possible for thefirst time. The findings will contribute to theoretical models that try toexplain the development and maintenance of social anxiety disorder. Moreover,this method could be developed to be useful in the diagnosis and treatment ofsocial anxiety disorder.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Does Self-focused Attention in Social Anxiety Depend on Self-construal? Evidence from a Probe Detection Paradigm
Vriends Noortje, Bolt Olivia C., Meral Yasemin, Meyer Andrea H., Bögels Susan, Wilhelm Frank H. (2018), Does Self-focused Attention in Social Anxiety Depend on Self-construal? Evidence from a Probe Detection Paradigm, in Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 7(1), jep.041514-jep.041514.
How do I look? Self-focused attention during a video chat of women with social anxiety (disorder)
Vriends Noortje, Meral Yasemin, Bargas-Avila Javier A., Stadler Christina, Bögels Susan M. (2017), How do I look? Self-focused attention during a video chat of women with social anxiety (disorder), in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 92, 77-86.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. S. Bögels, University of Amsterdam Netherlands (Europe)
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
43rd Annual EABCT Congress Individual talk Association between self-image and self-focused attention 25.09.2013 Marrakech, Morocco Meral Yasemin;
13. biannual congress of the swiss psychological society Individual talk The influence of self-image on self-focused attention. 11.09.2013 Basel, Switzerland Meral Yasemin;
42th Annual EABCT Congress Individual talk Association between self-image and self-focused attention. 29.08.2012 Genf, Switzerland Meral Yasemin;
30. Forschungssymposium der Fachgruppe Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie der DGPs Poster Zusammenhang zwischen Selbstbild uns Selbstfokussierter Aufmerksamkeit 17.05.2012 Luxemburg, Luxembourg Meral Yasemin;
41th Annual EABCT Congress, Reykjavik Individual talk Self-focused attention during a social interaction situation - a novel Eye-Tracking paradigm 30.08.2011 Reykjavic, Iceland Vriends Poespodihardjo Noortje Elisabeth;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Studie Soziales Auge Western Switzerland 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
125616 Cultural Differences in Social Anxiety Disorder 01.01.2009 International short research visits

Abstract

People with social anxiety disorder (SAD, also called social phobia) suffer from a marked and persistent fear of one or more social interaction or performance situations in which they are exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. SAD is a debilitating disorder and mostly precedes other mental disorders. Recent cognitive models of SAD suggest that increased self-focused attention (SFA) plays an important role in the maintenance of social anxiety. According to these models, when patients with SAD enter a social situation, they start monitoring themselves in a process of detailed, self-focused observation, which may take the form of a mental representation of the self as seen by the audience (also called public awareness). As such, SFA not only precludes the perception of potentially positive feedback from the audience (and ensures perception of potentially negative cues of the self), but it also siphons attention away from important sources of external information essential to the task at hand. It is assumed that this impairs social performance and makes feared consequences more likely. Research into these associations between SFA and social anxiety or social performance has gained prominence in recent years. Questionnaire studies have shown associations between SAD and increased SFA. However, these self-reports are subjective and rely on retrospective data. Experiments in which SFA was manipulated (with, for example, a mirror or video camera) showed heterogeneous findings: It is not clear if enhanced SFA necessarily results in higher social anxiety or impaired social performance. Additionally, these experiments lacked a direct measurement of SFA during the social performance. Some experiments directly measured SFA and suggested that in anticipation of socially stressful situations, socially anxious individuals indeed show increased SFA. Besides the failure to measure during a social interaction, these paradigms measured private awareness but failed to measure the more relevant public awareness. In sum, clear conclusions regarding SFA in social anxiety are still not possible given the nature of the research thus far. The proposed study will improve on existing SFA paradigms by measuring public self-consciousness directly during a social interaction with a novel eye-tracking paradigm. Thirty female patients with SAD and 30 healthy controls will have a conversation with an attractive male confederate via a video conference (participant and confederate will sit in different rooms). The participant will watch a directly transferred video presentation of herself and of the confederate during the conversation. SFA will be measured by the absolute time the participant spends watching her own video presentation during this conversation. Self-report questionnaires will measure social anxiety, underestimation of social performance (de?ned as the discrepancy between self-perceived and observer-perceived social performance), actual (observer-perceived) social performance, and SFA. Heart rate will indicate anxiety during the experiment. To compare these laboratory findings with real-life situations, participants will also fill out a palm-top diary in the morning and after social-anxiety-provoking situations for 7 days. This diary will include questions about (anticipatory) social anxiety, SFA, self-image, and distress in fearful social situations. The significance of this proposal lies in the novelty of the paradigm, which makes direct measurement of SFA during a social interaction situation possible for the first time. The findings will contribute to filling important gaps in the evidence of existing cognitive models of SAD. Moreover, this method could be developed to be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of SAD.
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