Individuals with social anxiety preferentially attend to threatening social information during and following social events. As such, cognitive models predict that social anxiety should be associated with biases in the recall of social events. However, initial experimental studies examining this assumption either failed to find such biases or found only weak evidence for an autobiographical memory bias. The current review examines an emerging line of evidence offering support for the role of an autobiographical memory bias in the development and maintenance of social anxiety. The review begins by examining current theoretical approaches to autobiographical memory before looking at empirical studies that have examined differences between socially anxious and non-anxious individuals in the recall of autobiographical memories. Specific memory biases include properties of social-threat memories, the imagery associated with these memories, and the cognitive processing styles that have been found to either facilitate or inhibit the recall of emotional memories. Limitations in methodologies used to study retrieval of memories and the implications of findings for future research are discussed.
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- social anxiety
- social phobia
- autobiographical memory
- cognitive biases