A comparison of cognitive and behavioral approaches for reducing cost bias in social anxiety
Cognitive-behavioral theories suggest that anxiety is maintained in part by estimates of the probability and cost of feared negative outcomes. Social phobia may be unique among the anxiety disorders in that it is characterized by overestimates of the cost of events that are objectively noncatastrophic (e.g., committing social mishaps). As such, treatment approaches that target cost bias may be particularly effective in reducing social phobia symptoms. This study examined the efficacy of 2 cost-specific techniques in a single-session intervention for social anxiety. Individuals (n = 61) with elevated social interaction anxiety were randomly assigned to an expressive writing control condition, a cognitive restructuring condition, or a behavioral experiment condition. Results demonstrated that the cognitive restructuring condition produced significantly greater improvement in indices of social anxiety than the other conditions. Reduction in cost bias fully mediated the significantly greater improvement in social interaction anxiety in the cognitive restructuring condition relative to the behavioral experiment condition. The present findings highlight the value of techniques designed to reduce cost biases in social anxiety. Clinical implications are discussed.