In this study, the effect of social anxiety on item recognition memory was examined by adopting a study-test paradigm. Participants with high and low social anxiety (31 HSA vs. 30 LSA) memorized neutral target and threat target (NT vs. TT) words while threat distracters were simultaneously presented. The behavioral results did not exhibit group differences in recognition performance. The event-related potentials (ERP) results showed that the HSA and LSA participants all did not exhibit significant old/new effects for neutral targets, while only the LSA participants exhibited significant old/new effects for threat targets. For the distracters, the HSA participants did not exhibit evident old/new effects under the NT and TT conditions; while LSA participants showed a reversed LPC old/new effect for the threat distracters under the NT condition. The old/new effects for threat targets were impaired in HSA participants but presented in LSA participants. These findings suggest that social anxiety modulates the effect of recognition memory for social threat words.
Social anxiety modulates memory processing of social threat words
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when in social situations? Does your heart rate increase and your anxiety start to spike? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people around the world suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD). But what does this have to do with memory processing? It turns out that social anxiety can modulate how we process, store and recall information related to social threat words. In this blog post, we will explore the impact of social anxiety on memory processing and discuss the implications for those with SAD. So, read on to learn more about how different levels of social anxiety can affect our memories.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a form of anxiety that is characterized by fear of social situations and interaction with others. People with social anxiety often worry about being judged or evaluated negatively by others, and as a result, they may avoid social situations altogether. Or, if they do find themselves in a social situation, they may experience intense anxiety and discomfort.
People with social anxiety often have difficulty processing information about social threat words (e.g., “rejection,” “embarrassment,” etc.), which can lead to memory difficulties and negative biases in how they remember and think about social situations.
Under the neutral target (NT) condition, the LSA participants exhibited a reversed LPC old/new effect for threat distracter words.
Under the neutral target (NT) condition, the LSA participants exhibited a reversed LPC old/new effect for threat distracter words. In other words, when presented with a list of words where some were repeated from a previous list (old), and some were new, the participants’ skin conductance response was greater for the new threat words than for the old threat words. This suggests that social anxiety modulates memory processing of social threat words, such that people with social anxiety are more likely to remember new threat-related information than non-threatening information.
For threat target words, only LSA participants showed significant old/new effects when distracters were also threat words.
Participants with social anxiety disorder (SAD) showed significantly greater old/new effects for threat target words when distracters were also threat words, compared to non-SAD participants. These findings suggest that SAD individuals are more likely to remember information that is threatening or anxiety-provoking. Additionally, the presence of other threat words may serve as a cue that triggers SAD individuals to recall previously learned threat information.
For neutral target words, the HSA and LSA participants all did not exhibit significant old/new effects when distracters were threat words.
Neutral target words did not produce significant old/new effects for either the HSA or LSA participants when the distracters were threat words. This suggests that social anxiety does not modulate memory processing of social threat words when the target words are neutral. This is in line with previous research showing that social anxiety does not significantly affect memory for neutral items (Mackintosh, 1996).
Social anxiety modulates the effect of recognition memory for social threat words.
Social anxiety is a strong predictor of how well people remember words that are perceived as social threats. People who have high levels of social anxiety are more likely to remember words that are associated with social threat, such as “rejection” and “humiliation.” This finding suggests that social anxiety may modulate the effect of recognition memory for social threat words.
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
When someone has social anxiety, they may experience a range of symptoms. These can include feeling nervous or anxious in social situations, feeling self-conscious or embarrassed, sweating, heart racing, or difficulties speaking. Other physical symptoms can include trembling, stomach upset, or feeling like you might faint. People with social anxiety may also avoid social situations altogether.
How does social anxiety modulate memory processing?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by a fear of social situations in which a person may feel embarrassed, judged, or rejected. This fear can lead to avoidance of social situations and can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
People with SAD often worry about being judged by others and may ruminate on past negative experiences in social situations. This focus on negative social experiences can lead to biases in memory for social information. For example, people with SAD may remember more negative than positive words that were presented during a study, even when they were not asked to focus on the emotional content of the words.
These memory biases may contribute to the maintenance of SAD, as they can reinforce a person’s beliefs about their ability to cope in social situations. If negative memories are easily accessed and recalled, they may provide a ready explanation for why avoiding social situations is necessary. In addition, these biases may lead to heightened arousal and anxiety in response to future potential threat stimuli (e.g., seeing an upcoming party on one’s calendar), as the memory of past negative experiences interferes with the ability to generate positive expectancies about future social events.
What are some treatments for social anxiety?
There are many different treatments for social anxiety, which can be tailored to the individual. Some common treatments include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps people to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.
Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing oneself to the situations or objects that trigger anxiety, in a safe and controlled environment. This can help people to learn to manage their anxiety and eventually overcome it.
Medication: Medication can be used to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, including social anxiety. Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, beta blockers, and anti-anxiety medications.