Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1091–1100 | Cite as

Reactions to Teasing in Social Anxiety

  • Matilda E. Nowakowski
  • Martin M. Antony
Original Article


The combination of challenge and humor inherent in teasing creates an ambiguous situation that can either increase bonding or create tension in a relationship, depending on how the teasing is interpreted. Although it is well established that individuals with social anxiety interpret ambiguous social situations negatively, no research has examined how individuals with social anxiety react to and interpret teasing. Ninety undergraduate students with high (n = 56) and low (n = 34) levels of social anxiety read vignettes depicting teasing scenarios, and rated how they would feel and behave in the situations. Participants also completed a self-report measure of recalled childhood teasing. Compared to the low social anxiety group, participants in the high social anxiety group reported that they would experience more negative affect in response to the teasing scenarios, and interpreted the teasing scenarios as more malicious and mean-spirited. As well, participants in the high social anxiety group reported being more likely to change the behavior that was the focus of teasing (e.g., changing the way they dress if the focus of teasing was their outfits) compared to participants in the low social anxiety group. Recalled childhood teasing partially mediated group differences on negative affect and behavior change in response to the teasing scenarios. The present results are consistent with the information processing bias literature and have implications for the social functioning of individuals with high levels of social anxiety.


Social anxiety Relationships Teasing Information processing 



This research was supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) and an Ontario Mental Health Foundation (OMHF) Studentship awarded to the first author. The authors would like to thank Natalie Ein, Heather Hood, Elisa Jackson, Amanda Perri, Jenny Rogojanski, Tara Sehovic, and Valerie Vorstenbosch for their assistance in data collection.

Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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