Threat-related automatic associations are assumed to play an important role in the development and maintenance of social anxiety. We tested whether threat-related automatic associations are already evident in high socially anxious adolescents, by comparing a group of adolescents (age 12-15) with subclinical levels of social anxiety (n = 170) to a group of low socially anxious adolescents (n = 193). We used a single-target implicit association test to measure threat-related automatic associations to social cues. Results showed that indeed in high socially anxious adolescents social cues automatically elicited relatively strong threat-related associations. Supporting the relevance of differentiating between automatic and more explicit measures, both automatic and explicit associations were independently associated with adolescents' level of self-reported social anxiety. The present pattern of findings is not only consistent with the view that automatic and more deliberate threat-related associations are both involved in the etiology of social-anxiety symptoms, but also suggest that both types of associations are proper targets for early intervention programs.
- adolescent development
- social anxiety
- implicit association test
De Hullu, E., de Jong, P. J., Sportel, B. E., & Nauta, M. H. (2011). Threat-related automatic associations in socially anxious adolescents. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49(8), 518-522. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.05.008