Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Joanna Arch, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Second Advisor

Dr. Heidi Day, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Third Advisor

Dr. Olivia Miller, Program for Writing and Rhetoric

Abstract

Social anxiety disorder is a disorder that affects millions of adults worldwide. Past research in the field has shown differences in the generation of episodic detail when analyzing positive autobiographical memories involving social situations of those who are highly socially anxious versus those who are less socially anxious, with those with high social anxiety showing a reduction in the generation of episodic detail when retrieving such memories. However, there has been little research done in the area of prospection, defined as the generation of mental representations of possible futures, and social anxiety disorder. Research has established that memory and prospection engage similar brain regions and based on this link, we hypothesized that those with social anxiety would display less episodic detail in their future imaginings of social scenarios than healthy controls. To test this hypothesis, behavioral data (n = 22 for SAD, n = 24 for healthy controls) was gathered through audio taped interviews of participants describing future scenarios (with either positive or negative valence) and then coded for amount and type of details given in the description. Contrary to the original hypotheses, there was no significant effect of valence by condition, but a potentially novel finding of a large significant main effect of valence was found, with both socially anxious and healthy control participants generating more episodic details for positive events.

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