School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles


Patrick Kingsep

Phone: (+61 4) 0155 3110


Start date

Oct 2005

Submission date

Patrick Kingsep


Maintenance of Social Anxiety Disorder: Mental control and the use of thought suppression


The research conducted as part of this project examined the mental control strategies used by people with social phobia and the impact that treatment had on some of these strategies. By way of summary, the results reported indicated:

a) that healthy control participants (without a mental disorder) did not demonstrate clear evidence of effective suppression of social threat stimuli yet individuals with social phobia appeared to do so,

b) that in terms of mental control strategies, individuals with social phobia used worry more so than control participants yet distraction less, although punishment, reappraisal and social control did not differ between groups,

c) that individuals with social phobia who took part in the Cognitive Behavioural Group Treatment evidenced increased use of functional cognitive strategies (i.e., social control and reappraisal) and a significant reduction in dysfunctional cognitive strategies (i.e., punishment and worry), and

d) that all five metacognitions (psychological structures, knowledge, events and processes that are implicated in the control, modification and interpretation of thinking) decreased following CBGT (even though there were only limited associations between metacognitions and symptom change). These five metacognitions include: (1) positive beliefs about worry, (2) negative beliefs about thoughts concerning uncontrollability and danger, (3) cognitive confidence (assessing confidence in attention and memory), (4) negative beliefs concerning the consequences of not controlling thoughts, and (5) cognitive self-consciousness (the tendency to focus attention on thought processes).

Why my research is important

Study One is an original contribution to the social phobia literature in that it examines the relationship between the fear of negative evaluations in individuals with social phobia and their utilisation of thought control strategies.

For Study Two, in addition to exploring pre-post treatment change of mental control strategy use, the potential role that metacognitions play in social phobia was also examined. Study Two is the first known study examining whether individuals with social phobia who completed a cognitive behavioural group treatment program evidenced changes in their use of mental control strategies.

With Study Three and Four using the online thought suppression paradigm, this represents the first use of this experimental paradigm in examining conscious and unconscious processes during attempted thought suppression in a clinical population. The specific importance relates to better understanding how individual with social phobia differ from non-psychiatric individuals during attempted mental control of social threat stimuli.


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