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Social Evaluation in Emerging Adults: Associations with Interpretation Bias and Perceived Social Support

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Abstract

Social anxiety symptoms are one of the most common mental health concerns across the lifespan (Bandelow and Michaelis in Dialogues Clin Neurosci 17(3):327–335, 2015. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/bbandelow) and are especially relevant during emerging adulthood, when social feedback occurs daily (Auxier and Anderson in Social media use in 2021, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/) as emerging adults navigate new social environments. Two cognitive processes have been identified as relevant to social anxiety: high threat interpretation bias (i.e., the tendency to appraise threat from ambiguity; Rozenman et al. in Behav Ther 45(5):594–605, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2014.03.009; J Anxiety Disord 45:34–42, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.11.004) is associated with high social anxiety, whereas high perceived social support is associated with low social anxiety. In this study, emerging adults (N = 303) completed an online adaptation of the Chatroom task (Guyer et al. in Arch Gener Psychiatry 65(11):1303–1312, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.65.11.1303), an experimental paradigm designed to simulate social acceptance and rejection, as well as a performance-based measure of interpretation bias (Word Sentence Association Paradigm; Beard and Amir in Behav Res Ther 46(10):1135–1141, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2008.05.012), and a self-report measure of perceived social support (Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support; Zimet et al. in J Pers Assess 52(1), 30–41, 1988. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa5201_2). Social anxiety symptoms did not increase as a function of acceptance or rejection during the Chatroom task. However, there were significant interactions between each cognitive predictor and social anxiety change: emerging adults with low interpretation bias towards threat and emerging adults with high perceived social support both experienced decreases in social anxiety from pre- to post-Chatroom task, regardless of whether they were accepted or rejected during the Chatroom task. If replicated, low interpretation bias and high perceived social support may serve as promotive factors in social interactions for emerging adults.

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Notes

  1. The present study examines SA symptoms, rather than diagnoses. All mentions of SA henceforth refer to symptoms unless otherwise specified.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Amanda Guyer, the original Chatroom task developer, for her consultation on adapting the task for use online. Thank you also to the emerging adults who participated in the current study.

Funding

This work was supported by the University of Denver College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Student Research Grant to Emily Jones.

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Data collection was performed by Emily Jones. Both authors contributed to study conceptualization and design, data analysis and interpretation, and writing and editing of the manuscript; and both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Emily L. Jones.

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Emily Jones has no competing interests to disclose. Michelle Rozenman has received funding from the American Psychological Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health, and the University of Denver in the last three years and receives royalties from Oxford University Press for books unrelated to the current project.

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Jones, E.L., Rozenman, M. Social Evaluation in Emerging Adults: Associations with Interpretation Bias and Perceived Social Support. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-023-01663-1

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