Threat-related automatic associations in socially anxious adolescents

E. De Hullu*, Peter J. de Jong, B.Esther Sportel, Maaike H. Nauta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-522
Number of pages5
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • threat
  • adolescent development
  • social anxiety
  • adolescents
  • implicit association test


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