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The current study investigates an experimental anxiety reduction intervention among
a highly socially anxious sample (N=108; n=36 per Condition; 80 women). Using a conditioning
paradigm, our goal was to modify implicit social anxiety associations to directly
test the premise from cognitive models that biased cognitive processing may be causally
related to anxious responding. Participants were trained to preferentially process
non-threatening information through repeated pairings of self-relevant stimuli and
faces indicating positive social feedback. As expected, participants in this positive
training condition (relative to our two control conditions) displayed less negative
implicit associations following training, and were more likely to complete an impromptu
speech (though they did not report less anxiety during the speech). These findings
offer partial support for cognitive models and indicate that implicit associations
are not only correlated with social anxiety, they may be causally related to anxiety
reduction as well.
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