ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
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Are you watching me? Interacting effects of fear of negative evaluation and social context on cognitive performance

  Erin Maresh - University of Virginia
  Bethany Teachman - University of Virginia
  James Coan - University of Virginia

In Press (Uncorrected Proof), Pages 1-37


            Socially anxious individuals exhibit performance impairments on cognitive tasks; it is unclear whether this is due to trait differences in abilities or unaccounted-for effects of the experimental context. This study sought to determine how social context, individual differences in social anxiety, and task difficulty interact to influence working memory performance. Participants (N=61) performed the n-back task at 2-back and 3-back difficulty levels under three conditions: alone ("Anonymous"), in presence of a non-evaluative experimenter ("Presence"), and under explicit performance evaluation by the experimenter ("Threat"). Results showed that during 3-back trials, social anxiety positively associated with longer reaction times during Threat, and during 2-back trials, social anxiety trended toward positively associating with longer reaction times during Presence. Social anxiety did not relate to accuracy, suggesting that threat-related impairments tied to social anxiety may alter efficiency rather than effectiveness. Thus, even minimally evaluative environments may elicit cognitive performance impairments in socially anxious individuals.

Table of Contents

Correspondence to
Erin Maresh

social anxiety, social-evaluative threat, social presence, working memory, cognitive impairment, social context, fear of negative evaluation

Received 14 Sep 2016; Revised 29 Mar 2017; Accepted 29 Mar 2017; In Press 16 Apr 2017

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