Category: Adult Anxiety - Social
Behavioral mimicry is the unintentional alteration of one’s behavior in order to match that of the other person in a social interaction. Prior research has found that individuals with high social anxiety mimic the behaviors of an interaction partner less than individuals with low social anxiety. However, there is a paucity of research on the mechanisms that mediate the relationship between heightened social anxiety and reduced behavioral mimicry. The purpose of the current study was to examine the influence of self-focused attention, an increased internal focus, on the relationship between increased social anxiety and reduced behavioral mimicry within an experimentally simulated social interaction. There is extensive evidence that socially anxious individuals are self-focused during social interactions and as such, self-focused attention may lead to reduced mimicry behavior. Participants (n = 80 currently; full sample of 100 participants will be collected by time of presentation) are pre-screened for high social anxiety levels and are being randomly assigned to a self-focused attention or other-focused attention condition. Following the focus of attention manipulation, participants interact in a face-to-face social interaction with a confederate (fake participant) who makes a series of mimicry movements [facial touches; as per Chartrand & Bargh’s (1999) mimicry paradigm]. Then, trained raters code the video files for mimicry behaviour, rating both the confederate and participants’ behavior. It is hypothesized that participants in the self-focused attention condition will make fewer mimicry movements compared to those in the other-focused attention condition. These findings would suggest that excessive self-focused attention impacts mimicry behavior, and that the reduced mimicry found among socially anxious people may be due to high levels self-focused attention. Such findings would serve to reinforce the efforts made to reduce self-focused attention in cognitive behavioral treatments for social anxiety disorder.