Specificity of interpretation and judgmental biases in social phobia versus depression

M.J. Voncken*, S.M. Bögels, F. Peeters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives. A body of studies shows that social phobia is characterized by content specific interpretation and judgmental biases. That is, they show bias in social situations but not in non-social situations. Comorbid depression, one of the major comorbid disorders in social phobia, might account for these biases in social phobia since depression also is characterized by cognitive distortions in social situations. This study hypothesized that, despite comorbid depression, patients with social phobia would suffer from contentspecific biases. Design. Participants filled out the Interpretation and judgmental Questionnaire (IJQ) to assess interpretation bias (using open-ended responses and forced-interpretations) and judgmental bias in social and non-social situations. Method. Four groups participated: social phobic patients with high (N = 38) and low (N = 47) depressive symptoms, depressed patients (N = 22) and normal controls (N = 33). Results. We found both social phobic groups to interpret social situations more negatively and judge social situations as more threatening than non-social situations relative to depressed patients and normal controls. As expected, depressive symptoms related to increased general interpretation and judgmental biases across social and non-social situations. In contrast to expectations, we did not find these patterns for the open-ended measure of interpretation bias. Conclusions. The content-specific biases for social situations distinguished social phobic patients from depressive patients. This speaks for the importance of establishing the primary diagnosis in patients with mixed depression and social anxiety complaints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-453
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology and Psychotherapy-theory Research and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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