Interpretation Bias in Social Anxiety as Detected by Event-Related Brain Potentials

Jason S. Moser*, Greg Hajcak, Jonathan D. Huppert, Edna B. Foa, Robert F. Simons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Little is known about psychophysiological correlates of interpretation bias in social anxiety. To address this issue, the authors measured event-related brain potentials (ERPs) in high and low socially anxious individuals during a task wherein ambiguous scenarios were resolved with either a positive or negative ending. Specifically, the authors examined modulations of the P600, an ERP that peaks approximately 600 ms following stimulus onset and indexes violations of expectancy. Low-anxious individuals were characterized by an increased P600 to negative in comparison with positive sentence endings, suggesting a positive interpretation bias. In contrast, the high-anxious group evidenced equivalent P600 magnitude for negative and positive sentence endings, suggesting a lack of positive interpretation bias. Similar, but less reliable results emerged in earlier time windows, that is, 200-500 ms poststimulus. Reaction time, occurring around 900 ms poststimulus, failed to show a reliable interpretation bias. Results suggest that ERPs can detect interpretation biases in social anxiety before the emission of behavioral responses.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)693-700
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • P600
  • event-related potentials
  • interpretation bias
  • social anxiety
  • social phobia


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