Hypermentalizing in social anxiety: Evidence for a context-dependent relationship

Sergi Ballespí, Jaume Vives, Carla Sharp, Andrea Tobar, Neus Barrantes-Vidal

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9 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Ballespí, Vives, Sharp, Tobar and Barrantes-Vidal. Social anxiety (SA) means fear of scrutiny and of others' negative evaluation, thus indicating that hypermentalizing (HMZ) (i.e., the over-attribution of intentions and thoughts to others) might be the most common error of social cognition in SA. However, evidence for this is weak. One explanation is that HMZ is not stable in SA, but rather context-dependent. The first aim of the current study was testing this hypothesis. The second aim was analyzing whether the association between SA and HMZ is moderated by a negative self-image. One-hundred and thirteen young adults (85.8% females; M = 21.1 years old; SD = 2.7) were assessed on measures of SA, HMZ, and self-image. Given the over-representation of females, conclusions may not be safely extrapolated to males. Results revealed that HMZ is associated with SA only in the self-referential social situation [B = 2.68 (95% CI: 0.72-4.65), p = 0.007]. This supports that HMZ is not global in SA (i.e., a stable cognitive style), but rather is active only in some contexts. Implications for the conceptualization and treatment of SA are discussed. Contrary to predictions, neither self-esteem, nor positive or negative self-schema moderated the association between SA and self-referential HMZ. This contradicts findings in the field of paranoid delusion and requires replication, including measures of implicit self-esteem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1501
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Context-dependency
  • Hypermentalizing
  • Mentalization
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-image
  • Social anxiety
  • Social cognition

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