Category: Adult Anxiety - Social

Symposium

Differences in Daily Cognition Between Adults With and Without SAD: The Problem Lies With Off-Task Thinking

Friday, November 17
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom M & N, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Social Anxiety | Cognitive Processes | Ecological Momentary Assessment
Presentation Type: Symposium

In this study, we employed a novel smartphone app to collect ecological momentary sampling data on daily cognition among adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD; n = 25) and healthy controls (n = 28) at 50 random timepoints over 10 days.  This paper addresses the degree to which on- versus off-task thinking is associated with cognitive differences among adults with SAD versus healthy controls.   Preliminary analyses demonstrate that the SAD group engages in more frequent off-task, internally-focused thinking (e.g., mind-wandering) than healthy controls, p = .04, 2 = .08.  Even when covarying depression, interactions demonstrate that compared to on-task thinking, in the context of off-task, internally-focused thinking, the SAD group reported that their thoughts were less controllable, p = .03, 2 = .10, and associated with somewhat lower mood than healthy controls, p = .06, 2 = .08, but were not more negative in content (e.g., negativity bias) nor more self-focused, ps > .43.  In contrast, when the SAD group focused on-task, group differences in cognition and mood were eliminated.  Further, the frequency of off-task thinking correlated with lower life satisfaction within the SAD group (r = -.40, p = .050) but not within healthy controls (r = .12, p = .56).  We will explore the extent to which the type and degree of social interaction during each thought sample moderates these findings.  In summary, our findings suggest that group differences in daily cognition depend on task focus, and that off-task thinking is linked with more negative outcomes for adults with SAD than for healthy controls, despite their greater propensity to engage in it.  

Joanna Arch

Assistant Professor
The University of Colorado at Boulder

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