Category: Adult Anxiety - Social
Background: Fear of negative evaluation (FNE), defined as distress concerning unfavorable judgments from others, is a demonstrated correlate of social anxiety (SA; Heimberg et al., 2005) and an integral mechanism within cognitive models (e.g., Clark and Wells 1995) of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Fear of the consequences of anxiety relation sensations or anxiety sensitivity (AS), is a mechanism associated with a wide array of anxiety disorders, including SAD. Of the consequences considered in AS, those concerning the social sphere are particularly relevant to SAD (Wheaton et al., 2012). Large correlations between measures of FNE and AS social concerns (AS-S) and their theoretical commonalities have led researchers to question if they are distinct constructs (Taylor, 1995; Taylor et al., 1999; Zinbarg et al., 1999) and the findings of one study suggested that they are related yet separate phenomena (McWilliams et al., 2000). Fear of positive evaluation (FPE) or distress regarding favorable judgments from others in public, is another construct correlated with SAD. Like FNE and AS-S, researchers have speculated FNE and FPE are not separate constructs (Wallace and Alden, 1995). Despite the conceptual overlap of FNE, AS-S, and FPE, the unique contributions of these constructs have yet to be evaluated in their prediction of SA.
Methods: A sample of 295 (64.1% female, 84.4% Caucasian) U.S. Citizens were recruited through advertising on Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace. Participants completed measures of FNE (Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale [BFNE]), AS (Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 [ASI-3]), FPE (Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale [FPES]) and SA (Social Phobia Inventory [SPIN]).
Results: A hierarchical multiple regression with age and gender as a predictor variable entered in step 1, BFNE as a predictor variable entered in step 2, ASI-3 Social Concerns (ASI-3-S) scores as a predictor variable entered in step 3, and FPES as a predictor variable entered in step 4 was conducted to predict the criterion variable of SPIN scores. Analyses indicated that BFNE scores explained 44.5% of the variance in SPIN scores, ΔF (1, 291) = 261.09, p < .001, above and beyond age and gender. ASI-3-S scores explained an incremental 13.5% of the variance in SPIN scores, ΔF (1, 290) = 109.31, p < .001, above and beyond age, gender, and BFNE scores. FPES scores explained 7.1% of the variance in SPIN scores, ΔF (1, 289) = 71.13, p < .001, above and beyond age, gender, BFNE, and ASI-3-S scores.
Conclusion: In addition to the large influence of FNE, AS-S independently predicts SPIN scores, indicating FNE and AS-S are distinct in their contributions to SA. Further, FPE also uniquely impacts SA, as FPE explains additional variance in SPIN scores. Implications for cognitive models and directions for future research will be discussed.