Social Anxiety and Concordance in Emotional Responses Across Levels of Evaluative Threat

Author: ORCID icon
Toner, Emma, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Teachman, Bethany, AS-Psychology (PSYC), University of Virginia

Cognitive-behavioral theories of emotional disorders assert that emotional responding comprises concordant responses (e.g., co-occurring subjective distress and physiological arousal), but this is often not observed in practice. We investigated whether concordance would be greater when social threat is higher. N = 46 socially anxious participants underwent experiences involving varying degrees of social interaction and evaluative threat. Affect, cognitions, behaviors, and physiological responses were assessed repeatedly. We used a network modeling approach to explore the associations among emotion response components that are typically associated with trait social anxiety. After estimating contemporaneous partial-𝜏 networks for each condition, we identified the optimal modularity statistic with absolute thresholding. Permutation testing was used to investigate hypotheses tied to absolute and relative concordance. Concordance was defined as a lack of community structure as measured by a non-significant modularity statistic, indicating a unidimensional anxiety response. Contrary to hypotheses, absolute concordance was not observed in any of the conditions involving social-evaluative threat but was observed in the non-social control network. Additionally, no significant differences in relative concordance emerged when comparing explicit evaluation vs. non-explicit evaluation or social vs. non-social networks. Our findings align with the extant literature suggesting that concordance is not a necessary or common feature of emotional episodes and has implications for our theoretical understanding of social anxiety. Future work should explore individual differences in concordance and interactions among components across different timescales.

MA (Master of Arts)
emotion, network analysis, social anxiety, psychophysiology, concordance
Sponsoring Agency:
University of Virginia Hobby Postdoctoral and Predoctoral Fellowship Grant University of Virginia President and Provost’s Fund for Institutionally Related ResearchNIMH R01MH113752
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