Saturday, January 19, 2013

A recent review article on public speaking anxiety

Last January Charles B. Pull published an article about the Current Status of Knowledge on Public-speaking Anxiety in Current Opinion in Psychiatry magazine. You can read the abstract here, or here at PubMed, and find the full text online here. The summary says that:

“Public-speaking anxiety is a highly prevalent disorder, leading to excessive psychological and physiological reactivity. It is present in a majority of individuals with SAD [social anxiety disorder] and there is substantial evidence that it may be a distinct subtype of SAD. It is amenable to treatment including, in particular, new technologies such as exposure to virtual environments and the use of cognitive–behavioral self-help programs delivered on the Internet.”

He references 37 articles. How did he find them all? His Methods section says that:

“PubMed was systematically searched for research studies published between August 2008 and September 2011 using the search words 'public speaking anxiety', 'fear of public speaking', 'fear of speaking in public', 'fear of speaking in front of others', 'SAD', and 'social phobia'. In addition, a similar search was conducted for review articles published on the topic prior to August 2008.”

Did you notice what term didn’t appear on his list of search words? It’s glossophobia. Although there is a web site called that claims:

“Glossophobia is the technical term given to a severe fear of public speaking.”

that’s not really true. I’ve ranted before about how glossophobia might as well mean the fear of waxing your car to a high gloss. Glossophobia just is a pseudo-technical term that won’t lead you to the best information. Instead it it will send you down blind alleys.

The photo of James Watson speaking came out of the Images from the History of Medicine collection.


Glossophobia said...

I would be interested to know if in his research, Charles looked at how many people in percentage terms are affected by a fear of public speaking. I know that I've heard as many as 75% have such a fear, is this an accurate figure?

Richard I. Garber said...


Perhaps you should have asked if the ~75% was an accurate figure before you blogged about Public Speaking Phobia on July 13th and claimed without any reference that “a recent on-line poll discovered that over three in four people have a phobia of public speaking...”

On November 13, 2013 I blogged about How scary is public speaking or performance? A better infographic showing both fears and phobias

Phobia for adults is 10.7% in the U.S., 5.3% in nine developed countries., and just 1.6% in eleven developing countries. Fear for adults is 21.2% for in U.S., 13% in nine developed countries., and just 9.4% in eleven developing countries.

On February 3, 2014 I blogged about Busting a myth - that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking.