Monday, May 9, 2011

The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale

The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) is a test for assessing how anxious people are about social situations. Often it is used by psychologists or psychiatrists doing research on social anxiety. But, who developed it?

A) Jackson Liebowitz, a character played by Tony Curtis in the 1963 movie Captain Newman, MD.

B) Fawn Liebowitz, a co-ed from Emily Dickinson College mentioned in the 1978 movie Animal House.

C) Dr. Michael R. Liebowitz, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, who wrote the 1983 book The Chemistry of Love.  

D) Fran Liebowitz, the essayist described in the 2010 documentary movie Public Speaking.

The correct answer is C. D was a trick question - Fran spells her name without an i before the e.

The LSAS consists of a list of 24 statements, each describing a situation. You are read them (or in another version you can read them yourself). You rank each them by how anxious or fearful you are on a scale from 0 to 3 where:

0 = None
1 = Mild
2 = Moderate
3 = Severe
Also, you rank them by how badly you would avoid them on a scale from 0 to 3 where:

0 = Never
1 = Occasionally
2 = Often
3 = Usually

You can find a do-it-yourself version of the LSAS on the web here. Three of the situations are about speaking in public. Situation #6 is “Acting, performing, or speaking in front of an audience.” Situation #20 is “Giving a prepared talk to a group”, presumably a smaller audience than in #6. Situation #16 is “Speaking up at a meeting.”

Psychiatrists also refer to tests like the LSAS as “instruments.” Every time I see that jargon I get a mental image of a tuba. They also describe the do-it yourself version of the LSAS as the “self-report” scale.

The image of a scale is from AntonyB.

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