Implicit associations in social anxiety disorder: The effects of comorbid depression

Judy Wong, Amanda S. Morrison, Richard G. Heimberg, Philip R Goldin, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Implicit associations of the self to concepts like "calm" have been shown to be weaker in persons with social anxiety than in non-anxious healthy controls. However, other implicit self associations, such as those to acceptance or rejection, have been less studied in social anxiety, and none of this work has been conducted with clinical samples. Furthermore, the importance of depression in these relationships has not been well investigated. We addressed these issues by administering two Implicit Association Tests (IATs; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998), one examining the implicit association of self/other to anxiety/calmness and the other examining the association of self/other to rejection/acceptance, to individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD, n= 85), individuals with generalized SAD and a current or past diagnosis of major depressive disorder or current dysthymic disorder (n= 47), and non-anxious, non-depressed healthy controls (n= 44). The SAD and SAD-depression groups showed weaker implicit self-calmness associations than healthy controls, with the comorbid group showing the weakest self-calmness associations. The SAD-depression group showed the weakest implicit self-acceptance associations; no difference was found between non-depressed individuals with SAD and healthy controls. Post hoc analyses revealed that differences appeared to be driven by those with current depression. The SAD-only and SAD-depression groups did not differ in self-reported (explicit) social anxiety. The implications of these findings for the understanding of SAD-depression comorbidity and for the treatment of SAD are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-546
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive biases
  • Depression
  • Implicit associations
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Implicit associations in social anxiety disorder: The effects of comorbid depression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this