Category: Adult Anxiety

PS2- #A32 - To Perform or Not to Perform: Avoidance, Fear, and a Brief Training to Increase Mindfulness

Friday, Nov 17
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Anxiety | Mindfulness | College Students

Mindfulness (i.e., sustained attention on the present moment; Kabat-Zinn, 1990) has demonstrable positive effects. For example, mindfulness-based interventions may increase state mindfulness (Reynolds et al., 2015) and reduce social anxiety symptoms, such as fear and avoidance of performance-evaluative situations (Friese & Hofmann, 2016). Studies have suggested that a single brief mindfulness training (BMT) session can increase state mindfulness in healthy college students and individuals with social anxiety disorder, and reduce avoidance behaviors (Cassin & Rector, 2011; Lueke & Gibson, 2016). However, no study has yet experimentally examined the effect of state mindfulness on approaching or avoiding performance situations. This study aimed to bolster evidence regarding the efficacy of BMT to increase state mindfulness and examine its connection with approaching or avoiding an evaluated speech. College students (N = 59) were randomly assigned to either BMT or training in a distraction technique (DT) and completed the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale and the Toronto Mindfulness Scale before and after a 10-minute BMT or instruction of DT. Next, participants were told they would perform a speech evaluated by experts--a modified Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), although they were never required to. After additional practice of BMT or DT, participants chose whether to perform the speech. We hypothesized that 1) BMT would result in a significant increase in state mindfulness leading into the TSST, whereas the DT control condition would not, and 2) those who opted not to perform the evaluated speech would report greater levels of social anxiety-related fear and avoidance pre-intervention and lower levels of state mindfulness at post-intervention. Paired-samples t-tests indicated a significant within-group difference in state mindfulness, such that participants who engaged in BMT demonstrated an increase in state mindfulness, t(28) = -2.05, p = .05, while those who engaged in the DT did not, t(29) = -.50, p = .62. Further, independent samples t-tests indicated that participants who opted not to perform the speech (n = 20) reported significantly greater social anxiety-related fear, t(56) = 2.54, p = .01 and avoidance, t(56) = 2.07, p = .04 pre-intervention, and marginally lower levels of state mindfulness, t(56) = -1.87, p = .07 at post-intervention than those willing to perform. The two groups did not significantly differ on belief of having to perform the speech (p = .81), nor the level of adherence to BMT or DT (p = .55). Findings support that BMT can increase state mindfulness with minimal practice, but pre-existing fear and avoidance tendencies may still drive behavior. Future research should examine the efficacy and longevity of BMT to reduce fear and avoidance, allowing individuals to approach anxiety-provoking evaluative situations.

Diana M. Cook

University of Houston-Clear Lake
Houston, Texas

Kristina Harper

University of Houston-Clear Lake
Pearland, Texas

Kristin Boyd

University of Houston-Clear Lake

Amanda Johnston

University of Houston-Clear Lake

Sara Elkins

University of Houston-Clear Lake

Steven Bistricky

University of Houston-Clear Lake