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Young people with higher social anxiety are less likely to adopt the perspective of another: Data from the Director task

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Victoria Pile, Simone P W Haller, Chii Fen Hiu, Jennifer Y F Lau

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume55
Early online date5 Nov 2016
DOIs
Accepted/In press3 Nov 2016
E-pub ahead of print5 Nov 2016
Published1 Jun 2017

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Abstract

Background and objectives Young people with social anxiety display poor social functioning but it is unclear whether this is underscored by difficulties in key social cognitive abilities, such as perspective taking. Here, we examined whether increased social anxiety is associated with reduced accuracy on a perspective taking task and whether this relationship is stronger at particular periods within adolescence. Methods Fifty-nine adolescents aged 11–19 years completed the computerised Director Task (DT) and the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescence. In the DT, participants virtually move objects by following either instructions given by the ‘Director’ (who can see only some objects), or a simple rule to ignore certain objects. Results Participants who scored above the clinical cut-off for social anxiety (n = 17) were less accurate when they had to take the perspective of the Director into account than those scoring below cut-off, yet performed similarly on control trials. Preliminary analysis indicated that poorer performance was most strongly associated with social anxiety in mid-adolescence (14–16.5 years). Limitations The DT has been used previously to measure online perspective taking but the underlying cognitive mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Extending these findings using additional measures of perspective taking would be valuable. Conclusions Adolescents with higher social anxiety were less accurate at taking the perspective of a computerised character, with some suggestion that this relationship is strongest during mid-adolescence. If replicated, these findings highlight the importance of addressing specific social cognitive abilities in the assessment and treatment of adolescent social anxiety.

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