Behaviour Change

Standard Papers

Self-Discrepancies and the Situational Domains of Social Phobia

Adam Johnsa1 c1 and Lorna Petersa1

a1 Centre for Emotional Health, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Australia


The present study explored whether particular discrepancies among an individual's self-beliefs, as described by Higgins’ (1987) Self-Discrepancy Theory, were differentially related to the two broad situational domains of social anxiety: performance and social interaction anxiety. Fifteen people (4 males) with a primary diagnosis of GSP from Macquarie University's Emotional Health Clinic, and 25 undergraduate psychology students from Macquarie University (8 males) with mean chronological ages of 31.7 and 20.6 years respectively, participated in the study. As predicted, the study found that the ‘actual/other:ought/other’ self-discrepancy was uniquely related to performance anxiety, the ‘actual/own:ought/other’ self-discrepancy was uniquely associated with social interaction anxiety, and the ‘actual/own:ideal/own’ self-discrepancy was uniquely associated with depression. The results are discussed in terms of their unique contribution to Self-Discrepancy Theory research, the current empirical debate regarding the existence of subtypes within social phobia, and their implications for the cognitive models and treatment of social anxiety.


  • self-discrepancy theory;
  • social phobia;
  • subtypes;
  • depression;
  • anxiety


c1 Address for correspondence: Adam D. Johns, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. Email: