HAPPY BUT NOT SO APPROACHABLE: THE SOCIAL JUDGMENTS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH GENERALIZED SOCIAL PHOBIA


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Abstract

Background:We examined social approachability judgments in a psychiatric population that frequently experiences interpersonal difficulties and reduced social satisfaction, individuals with generalized social phobia (gSP).Methods:Our objective was to broaden the understanding of the social cognitive tendencies of individuals with gSP by systematically investigating their interpretation of positive facial expressions. We hypothesized that approachability ratings would be lower for positive as well as negative emotional faces in the gSP group compared to the healthy comparison group. Each participant evaluated 24 emotional faces presented on a computer screen. Participants first labeled the faces as either happy, disgust, or angry in emotional expression, and then they rated each face's approachability. Analysis of variance and post hoc analyses were used to identify group, emotion, and group by emotion rating differences.Results:Happy face approachability ratings were higher than disgust and anger in both groups. The central finding was that individuals with gSP rated happy faces as less approachable than the healthy participants and that degree of social anxiety was associated with lower approachability ratings within the gSP sample. Explicit approachability judgments of negative faces did not differ as predicted.Conclusions:Consistent with earlier indirect evidence of interpretation biases of positive social emotional information, this study reveals that individuals with gSP demonstrate explicit, subjective social interpretation biases of overtly positive social feedback. The therapeutic relevance of these results is discussed.

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