Anxiety disorders are among the most commonly diagnosed class of mental illness in the United States, and often involve abnormally high levels of stress and social fear. Despite high lifetime prevalence rates, social anxiety disorder (SAD) has remarkably low diagnosis and treatment rates. Furthermore, while individuals with other specific psychiatric disorders tend to exhibit significant neuropsychological deficits, neuropsychological functioning in individuals with SAD remains largely untested. A majority of the few existing studies concerning neuropsychological performance in SAD samples focus on specific functions, and their limited results are highly mixed. The primary objective of this investigation was to provide a more thorough, broad assessment of both auditory and visual working memory as related to psychometrically-defined social anxiety disorder. In addition, this study aimed to help clarify as to whether such deficits are related to the construct of social anxiety, or whether any potential deficits are better explained by generalized state and/or trait (in-the-moment) anxiety. The implications of a deficit in the visual and/or auditory working memory domains are multifaceted. For example, such a deficit may lead to the inability to detect visual cues in social situations. The inability to process these social cues has the potential to exacerbate some SAD- related symptoms, such as fear of humiliation and judgment. Twenty-nine college students completed both phases of this study, including an assessment of state and trait anxiety as well as social phobia and a four-part working memory battery. An analysis of the Phase II data indicates that individual scores on the four measures of both visual and auditory working memory did not relate to trait and/or state anxiety or psychometrically-defined social anxiety.; Thus, it appears that social, generalized trait, and generalized state anxiety do not relate to a neuropsychological deficit in either type of working memory in this sample population. However, we did find a statistical trend suggesting that as social anxiety increased, there was a relative decrease in visual vs. auditory working memory. This statistical trend remained after covarying for state and trait anxiety respectively. Therefore, future research in this area should examine the discrepancy in performance between the auditory and visual working memory domains as it relates to both diagnosed social phobia and psychometrically-defined social anxiety.


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Thesis Completion





Bedwell, Jeffrey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences;Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

Included in

Psychology Commons