The contributions of eye movements to the efficacy of brief exposure treatment for reducing fear of public speaking

J Anxiety Disord. Jan-Apr 1999;13(1-2):101-18. doi: 10.1016/s0887-6185(98)00042-5.


The present study was designed to isolate the effects of the eye-movement component of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) procedure in the treatment of fear of public speaking. Seventy-one undergraduate psychology students who responded in a fearful manner on the Fear Survey Schedule II and on a standardized, self-report measure of public speaking anxiety (Personal Report of Confidence as a Speaker; PRCS) were randomly assigned to one of four groups in a 2x2 factorial design. The two independent variables assessed were treatment condition (imagery plus eye movements vs. imagery alone) and type of imagery (fear-relevant vs. relaxing). Dependent variables assessed were self-reported and physiological anxiety during exposure and behavioral indices of anxiety while giving a speech. Although process measures indicated exposure to fear-relevant imagery increased anxiety during the procedure, no significant differences among groups were found on any of the outcome measures, except that participants who received eye movements were less likely to give a speech posttreatment than participants who did not receive eye movements. Addition of the eye movements to the experimental procedure did not result in enhancement of fear reduction. It was concluded, consistent with the results of past research, that previously reported positive effects of the EMDR procedure may be largely due to exposure to conditioned stimuli.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / standards
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / standards
  • Relaxation / physiology
  • Saccades*
  • Shyness*
  • Speech*