Effect of self-focused attention on the startle reflex, heart rate, and memory performance among socially anxious and nonanxious individuals
Vrana, Scott R.
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The present study examined the effect of self-focused attention on the startle reflex and heart rate and assessed the assumption that socially anxious individuals become self-focused in evaluative situations. Twenty- five high and 30 low socially anxious men performed a digit recall task under evaluative or nonevaluative instructions. Half of the trials were performed under self-focused conditions and half under non-self-focused conditions. Self-focus led to larger startle responses among socially anxious individuals and had no effect on heart rate. Self-focus combined with evaluation led to poorer recall performance among all subjects. Results provide evidence against a directional change in attention during self-focused attention and favor the view that self-focus increases access to self-relevant thought content and decreases available processing resources.