Thomas Rodebaugh

Thomas Rodebaugh

Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Director of Clinical Training
PhD, University of North Carolina
MS, University of North Carolina
BA, Pennsylvania State University

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1125
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Professor ​Rodebaugh is a clinical psychologist with a focus on anxiety disorders in adults, particularly generalized social anxiety disorder. He is also interested in psychotherapy outcome and process.

More recently, Rodebaugh has focused on intensive longitudinal data and methods of modeling processes in individuals. He has over one hundred publications, with most focusing on anxiety disorders. His research has focused on assessment, treatment, cognitive factors (e.g., attention bias), interpersonal processes, friendship, loneliness, and the enhancement of exposure treatment across the anxiety disorders. He has a long-standing interest in the selection of appropriate statistical models (e.g., structural equation models; item response theory models; network models; idiographic models) for evaluating measures and testing hypotheses. 

Rodebaugh’s primary clinical focus is on supervising graduate students who provide psychotherapy at the department’s Psychological Services Center. Rodebaugh provides supervision in cognitive behavioral therapy and other empirically supported treatments. He is also the Director of Clinical Training for the Clinical Program.

Selected Publications

Rodebaugh, T. L., Tonge, N. A., Piccirillo, M. L., Fried, E., Horenstein, A., Morrison, A. S., . . . & Heimberg, R. G. (in press). Does centrality in a cross-sectional network suggest intervention targets for social anxiety disorder? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Objective: Network analysis allows us to identify the most interconnected (i.e., central) symptoms, and multiple authors have suggested that these symptoms might be important treatment targets. This is because change in central symptoms (relative to others) should have greater impact on change in all other symptoms. It has been argued that networks derived from cross-sectional data may help identify such important symptoms. We tested this hypothesis in social anxiety disorder.

Method: We first estimated a state-of-the-art regularized partial correlation network based on participants with social anxiety disorder (N = 910) to determine which symptoms were more central. Next, we tested whether change in these central symptoms were indeed more related to overall symptom change in a separate dataset of participants with social anxiety disorder who underwent a variety of treatments (N = 244). We also tested whether relatively superficial item properties (infrequency of endorsement and variance of items) might account for any effects shown for central symptoms.

Results: Centrality indices successfully predicted how strongly changes in items correlated with change in the remainder of the items. Findings were limited to the measure used in the network and did not generalize to three other measures related to social anxiety severity. In contrast, infrequency of endorsement showed associations across all measures. Conclusions: The transfer of recently published results from cross-sectional network analyses to treatment data is unlikely to be straightforward.


Rodebaugh, T. L., Tonge, N. A., Weisman, J. S., Lim, M. H., Fernandez, K. C., & Bogdan, R. (2017). The behavioral economics of social anxiety disorder reveal a robust effect for interpersonal traits. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 95, 139-147.

Recent evidence suggests that reduced generosity among individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) in behavioral economic tasks may result from constraint in changing behavior according to interpersonalcontingencies. That is, people with SAD may be slower to be more generous when the situation warrants. Conversely, more global effects on generosity may be related to interpersonal vindictiveness, a dimension only somewhat related to SAD. A total of 133 participants, 73 with the generalized form of SAD, completed self-report instruments and a behavioral economic task with simulated interpersonal (friend, romantic partner, stranger) interactions. In a separate visit, friends (n = 88) also came to the lab and rated participants on vindictiveness. Interpersonal vindictiveness was associated with reduced initial and overall giving to simulated friends. SAD predicted a lack of increased giving to a simulated friend, and attenuated an increase in giving to simulated known versus unknown players compared to participants without SAD. Friend-reported vindictiveness predicted in the same direction as diagnosis. However, the findings for SAD were less robust than those for vindictiveness. SAD is perhaps weakly related to behavioral constraint in economic tasks that simulate interpersonal interactions, whereas vindictiveness is strongly related to lower overall generosity as well as (via friend report) behavioral constraint. Further study is needed to better characterize the construct of vindictiveness. Our findings dovetail with the suggestion that SAD is related to impairment in the proposed affiliation and attachment system, but further suggest that direct study of that system may be more fruitful than focusing on disorders.


Rodebaugh, T. L., Scullin, R. B., Langer, J. K., Dixon, D. J., Huppert, J. D., Bernstein, A., Zvielli, A., & Lenze, E. J. (2016). Unreliability as a threat to understanding psychopathology: The dot-probe task as cautionary tale. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125, 840-851.

The use of unreliable measures constitutes a threat to our understanding of psychopathology, because advancement of science using both behavioral and biologically oriented measures can only be certain if such measurements are reliable. Two pillars of the National Institute of Mental Health's portfolio-the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative for psychopathology and the target engagement initiative in clinical trials-cannot succeed without measures that possess the high reliability necessary for tests involving mediation and selection based on individual differences. We focus on the historical lack of reliability of attentional bias measures as an illustration of how reliability can pose a threat to our understanding. Our own data replicate previous findings of poor reliability for traditionally used scores, which suggests a serious problem with the ability to test theories regarding attentional bias. This lack of reliability may also suggest problems with the assumption (in both theory and the formula for the scores) that attentional bias is consistent and stable across time. In contrast, measures accounting for attention as a dynamic process in time show good reliability in our data. The field is sorely in need of research reporting findings and reliability for attentional bias scores using multiple methods, including those focusing on dynamic processes over time. We urge researchers to test and report reliability of all measures, considering findings of low reliability not just as a nuisance but as an opportunity to modify and improve upon the underlying theory. Full assessment of reliability of measures will maximize the possibility that RDoC (and psychological science more generally) will succeed. (PsycINFO Database Record.


Rodebaugh, T. L., Taylor, K. P., Heimberg, R. G., & Lenze, E. J. (2015). Clarifying the behavioral economics of social anxiety disorder: Effects of interpersonal problems and symptom severity on generosity. Clinical Psychological Science, 4, 107-121.

Social anxiety disorder is associated with lower interpersonal warmth, possibly explaining its associated interpersonal impairment. Across two samples, we attempted to replicate previous findings that the disorder's constraint of interpersonal warmth can be detected via behavioral economic tasks. We also tested the test-retest stability of task indices. Results indicated that factors associated with social anxiety disorder (and not the disorderitself), such as the severity of social anxiety and more extreme interpersonal problems, lead to less generous behavior on the economic task examined. Results were clearest regarding fine-grained indices derived from latent trajectories. Unexpectedly, the combination of generalized anxiety disorder and higher depression also restricted generosity. Two of three indices showed acceptable test-retest stability. Maladaptive giving behavior may be a treatment target to improve interpersonal functioning in psychiatric disorders; therefore, future work should more precisely characterize behavioral economic tasks, including basic psychometric work (i.e., tests of reliability and validity).


Rodebaugh, T. L., Lim, M. L., Shumaker, E. A., Levinson, C. A., & Thompson, T. (2015). Social anxiety and friendship over time. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 44, 502-511.

High social anxiety in adults is associated with self-report of impaired friendship quality, but not necessarily with impairment reported by friends. Further, prospective prediction of social anxiety and friendship quality over time has not been tested among adults. We therefore examined friendship quality and social anxiety prospectively in 126 young adults (67 primary participants and 59 friends, aged 17-22 years); the primary participants were screened to be extreme groups to increase power and relevance to clinical samples (i.e., they were recruited based on having very high or very low social interaction anxiety). The prospective relationships between friendship quality and social anxiety were then tested using an Actor-Partner Interdependence Model. Friendship quality prospectively predicted social anxiety over time within each individual in the friendship, such that higher friendship quality at Time 1 predicted lower social anxiety approximately 6 months later at Time 2. Social anxiety did not predict friendship quality. Although the results support the view that social anxiety and friendship quality have an important causal relationship, the results run counter to the assumption that high social anxiety causes poor friendship quality. Interventions to increase friendship quality merit further consideration.

Rodebaugh, T. L., Lim, M. H., Fernandez, K. C., Langer, J. K., Weisman, J. S., Tonge, N., Levinson, C. A., & Shumaker, E. A. (2014). Self and friend’s differing views of social anxiety disorder’s effects on friendships. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 715-724.

Social anxiety disorder is known to be associated with self-report of global friendship quality. However, information about specific friendships, as well as information beyond self-report, is lacking. Such information is crucial, because known biases in information processing related to social anxiety disorder render global self-ratings particularly difficult to interpret. We examined these issues focusing on diagnosed participants (n = 77) compared with community control participants (n = 63). We examined self-report regarding global (i.e., overall) friendship quality and a specific friendship's quality; in addition, we examined friend-report of that friendship's quality. Results suggested that social anxiety disorder has a negative impact on self-perception of friendship quality for a specific friendship, but that this effect is less evident as reported by the friends. Specifically, social anxiety disorder was associated with a tendency to report worse friendship quality in comparison to friend-report, particularly in participants who were younger or had less long-lasting friendships. However, friend-report did show clear differences based on diagnostic group, with friends reporting participants with social anxiety disorder to be less dominant in the friendship and less well-adjusted. Overall, the findings are consistent with results of other studies indicating that social anxiety disorder has a strong association with self-ratings of impairment, but that these ratings appear out of proportion with the report of observers (in this case, friends).