Defense Announcement for Melanie Lipton
Dissertation Title: An Experimental Approach to Examining Individual Differences in Evaluative Concerns and Response to Feedback
Advisor: Dr. Andres De Los Reyes
Committee Members: Drs. Lea Dougherty, Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, and Julia Felton
Dean's Representative: Dr. Brenda Jones-Harden
Abstract: Evaluative concerns feature prominently into the presentation of those experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) as well as elevated social anxiety (SA) symptoms. The majority of work to date has focused on fear of negative evaluation (FNE). However, recent work indicates that those with elevated SA may express general concerns with fears of evaluation, including a heightened fear of positive evaluation (FPE). Individual differences may exist in the relative salience of FNE and FPE. Yet, all work to date has focused on people’s retrospective self-reports of their subjective experiences with fears of evaluation. In particular, little is known about how displays of these fears relate to real-world experiences of social-evaluative concerns (e.g., receiving feedback). Additionally, research and theory on emotion regulation may contribute in understanding and interpreting individual differences in evaluative concerns, specifically in the context of psychophysiological measures typically used to understand emotional regulation, namely Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
The purpose of the present study was to investigate relations between subjective measures assessing FNE and FPE, and emotion regulation as measured both behaviorally and physiologically. The current study aimed to (1) confirm the presence of the individual difference groups found in previous work, and (2) examine the relations between emotion regulation, valence of evaluation presented, and individuals’ most endorsed concern. We hypothesized that we would observe individual differences in evaluative concerns, and that emotional arousal, both self-reported and physiological, would be highest following real-world exposure to the type of evaluation that best matches the individual’s concern. The study included 89 adult participants recruited as part of a larger study. Participants completed self-report measures aimed to assess SA, FNE and FPE. In addition, participants completed an Impromptu Speech task and subsequently received feedback (i.e. positive and negative) on their performance. Participants completed self-report measures of arousal at various time points throughout the speech and feedback tasks. In addition, participants completed all assessments while wearing heart rate monitors to measure their HRV.
Results confirmed that the evaluative concern groups previously found in a college student sample were also present in a community sample of adults. Also consistent with previous results, individuals in these groups displayed significantly different levels of SA fears. When examining the relations among emotion regulation, valance of feedback, and evaluative concerns, we found mixed support that changes in self-reported arousal and HRV matched individual’s most endorsed evaluative concern. Overall, individual’s self-reported arousal was not highest following receipt of feedback that most matched their evaluative concern profile. Furthermore, we found that the effects varied by feedback condition, namely whether individuals received positive or negative feedback first. Interestingly, for those receiving positive evaluation first, and expressing heightened concerns with FPE, there was an increase in arousal when receiving negative feedback following positive feedback. However, for those expressing relatively low concerns with FPE, there was no increase in arousal. This suggests a possible “buffer effect” of positive feedback, but only for those not showing concerns with FPE. When examining HRV, we again found mixed results for our hypothesis. Specifically, HRV was significantly lower after receipt of negative evaluation for those high in FNE, but we found no significant effects when examining FPE in the context of positive evaluation. These findings hold important implications for the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of SA, FNE, and FPE, and we encourage future work to further examine these individual differences in other social contexts and clinical populations.