Memories in public speaking performance anxiety reconstructed: a qualitative exploration using a cognitive and etiological model


  • Karlijn Hermans Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University


Prior research on social anxiety disorder (SAD) demonstrated the importance of anxiety provoking images, which can be related to memories. The present study examines how imagery plays a role in young adults’ public speaking anxiety. The experiential intervention imagery rescripting (ImRs), conducted in fourteen participants with public speaking anxiety, resulted in reconstructing memories from adolescence. In order to explore which themes contribute to anxiety provoking images, the study of reconstructed memories focused on the cognitive anxiety process and etiological factors. Qualitative theory-driven analysis of these memories demonstrates that the anxiety process fits the cognitive model on SAD. With regard to etiology, expected influences of negative peer behaviour and parents were small or not found whereas influence of negative teacher behaviour was found. The present results therefore suggest that ImRs could be effective for the specific anxiety group which should be directed on negative teacher behaviour as contributor to their anxiety.