Attention to Emotional Information in Social Anxiety Disorder With and Without Co-Occurring Depression

Katharina Kircanski, Jutta Joormann, Ian H. Gotlib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Despite the high comorbidity of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), we know little about how persons with co-occurring SAD–MDD compare to their counterparts with pure disorders. In the present study we investigated attention to facial emotional stimuli in adult women with SAD only (n = 18), MDD only (n = 24), co-occurring SAD–MDD (n = 24), and healthy controls (CTL; n = 33). Participants were exposed to angry, sad, neutral, and happy faces for 200 and 1,000 ms as cues in a Posner attention task. We examined patterns of attentional engagement, disengagement, and vigilance-avoidance as a function of cue valence. Across the attentional indices, both the SAD and SAD–MDD groups differed most consistently from the MDD and CTL groups: they exhibited differential patterns of attention to angry, sad, and happy faces, including relatively greater vigilance-avoidance for angry faces. There was little evidence for any MDD-associated biases in attention. Findings suggest that the attentional processing of emotional information in SAD generally overrides the potential influence of co-occurring MDD. Implications for the understanding and treatment of co-occurring SAD–MDD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-161
Number of pages9
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 17 2015


  • Attention
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Social anxiety disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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