Using the Implicit Association Test to Assess Fears of Positive and Negative Evaluation in Social Anxiety Disorder

by Akanksha Srivastav

Institution: Ohio University
Department: Clinical Psychology (Arts and Sciences)
Degree: MS
Year: 2014
Keywords: Psychology; Social Anxiety Disorder; Fear of Negative Evaluation; Fear of Positive Evaluation; Implicit Association Test; Physiological Arousal; Behavioral Ratings
Record ID: 2025282
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ohiou1406195363


Research on implicit associations in psychopathology suggests that socially anxious individuals may have implicit associations congruent with the core cognitive constructs/concerns in social anxiety, such as stronger negative associations for social stimuli and fears of evaluation. The literature also indicates that implicit associations are useful for predicting spontaneous behavioral reactions. The present study recruited two groups (n=25 for each group) of persons high in social anxiety versus persons low in social anxiety (i.e., N = 50). Participants engaged in three implicit tests that assessed their attitudes towards: general social stimuli, positive social stimuli, and negative social stimuli. Participants then delivered an impromptu speech task, after which they completed each of the implicit tests once more. It was hypothesized that: (a) groups would differ significantly on implicit associations for social stimuli and fears of evaluation, such that persons high in social anxiety would demonstrate more negative implicit associations across social stimuli compared to low socially anxious persons; and (b) implicit measures would predict behavioral anxiety ratings based on performance during a speech task within the overall sample. Results were in partial support of the study hypotheses: (a) partially consistent with hypotheses, highly socially anxious persons demonstrated significantly greater negative implicit associations for negatively valenced social stimuli (but not general or positive social stimuli); and (b) implicit 4 measures assessing associations for general social stimuli, and negatively valenced social stimuli, significantly to marginally predicted observer-rated eye gaze during the speech task. There was also a significant decrease in the strength of implicit associations for positively-valenced social stimuli following the impromptu speech task. Treatment and assessment implications, and limitations to the study, will be discussed.