An Experimental Approach to Examining Individual Differences in Evaluative Concerns and Response to Feedback
De Los Reyes, Andres
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Evaluative concerns feature prominently into the presentation of those experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and elevated social anxiety (SA) symptoms. The majority of work to date has focused on fear of negative evaluation (FNE). However, 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, little is known about how these fears relate to real-world experiences of social-evaluative concerns (e.g., receiving feedback) or how to understand these differences in the context of physiological processes relevant to SAD, namely physiological flexibility as indexed by heart rate variability (HRV). The purpose of this study was to investigate relations between subjective measures assessing FNE and FPE, subjective measures of arousal, and direct measures of physiological flexibility. This study aimed to (1) confirm the presence of the individual difference groups found in previous work, and (2) examine the relations between arousal, valence of evaluation presented, and individual’s most endorsed concern. Participants completed self-report measures aimed to assess SA, FNE and FPE, as well as an Impromptu Speech task and subsequently received feedback (i.e. positive and negative) on their performance. 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. Further, individuals in these groups displayed significantly different levels of SA. When examining the relations among arousal, physiological flexibility, and evaluative concerns, we found mixed support for our hypotheses. Overall, individual’s self-reported arousal was not highest following receipt of feedback that most matched their evaluative concern profile, however we did discover a buffer effect for certain individuals receiving positive feedback prior to negative feedback. When examining physiological flexibility, HRV was not lowest when feedback matched individuals’ most endorsed concern. These findings hold important implications for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of SA, FNE, and FPE. We encourage future work to further examine these individual differences in other social contexts and clinical populations.