Social anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychological disorders that affects up to 13% of individuals in Western society across their lifetime. The debut of the disorder can be recorded as early as the age of 2.5 years. The tendency for social anxiety appears to be stable across the lifespan, and it seems to be stable across life. One of the main impairments is a marked and persistent fear of one or more social and performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. This is usually associated with a distorted processing of social information and social situations. We find that remarkably, links have not been made between early social-cognitive development and later anxiety disorders in preschool children. Research with adults provides evidence for social information processing impairments in those with social anxiety. The bulk of evidence comes from face perception. It is shown that the impairments manifest both in the exacerbation (e.g. for harsh and angry expressions) and lack (e.g. avoidance of foveal fixation) of face processing for emotional expressivity. The paper will argue on how early social information processing (e.g. contingency detection, face and eye gaze perception) could be used to explain and understand the early onset of social anxieties.
KEYWORDS: social cognition, social anxiety, face processing