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Social anxiety and social cognition: The influence of sex

Psychiatry Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.02.014
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Social Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Theory Of Mind
  • Gender


Abstract Current theoretical models predict a negative relationship between social anxiety and performance on measures of social cognition, yet there appears to be relatively little research that directly examines this relationship and the potential interaction of sex. Two samples of undergraduates self-reporting either a high (n=27; 59% female) or low (n=29; 62% female) level of social anxiety on the abbreviated Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory completed two social cognition measures: the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (Eyes Test) and The Awareness of Social Inference Test—Parts 2 and 3). A multivariate analysis of variance revealed a significant group by sex interaction on overall social cognition performance. Follow-up analyses indicated that males with high and low levels of social anxiety did not differ on any of the social cognition measures. In contrast, females with high social anxiety performed significantly better on the Eyes Test and the TASIT—Part 3 than females with low social anxiety. Contrary to expectations, results of this study suggest that females with high social anxiety may exhibit better-developed social cognition abilities than those with low social anxiety. These preliminary results have clinical implications in the treatment of individuals with social phobia.

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