Impact of social anxiety and social context on college students’ emotion regulation strategy use: An experience sampling study
Socially anxious individuals typically select more avoidant emotion regulation (ER) strategies than non-anxious individuals, contributing to interpersonal difficulties. The present study utilized smartphone-delivered experience sampling over 14 days to assess how actual and desired social situations predicted reports of ER strategy use in 115 undergraduate students with varying levels of social anxiety symptoms. After controlling for multiple comparisons, results indicated that higher (vs. lower) baseline social anxiety symptoms predicted endorsing at least one of the available eight ER strategies relatively more often than reporting no strategy use, in the context of high negative affect. We did not find the hypothesized positive relationship between social anxiety symptoms and endorsements of avoidant- (e.g., expressive suppression) versus engagement-oriented (e.g., cognitive reappraisal) ER strategies in the context of high negative affect. However, state social desire interacted with trait social anxiety at high negative affect to predict the use of an ER strategy, although the simple effects analyses at high and low levels of social desire were not statistically reliable. Collectively, our results demonstrate the importance of considering both trait-level social anxiety symptoms and in-the-moment social context when studying ER strategy selection. The importance of assessing intrinsic motivational goals and beliefs in the context of ER strategy use is also discussed.
KeywordsSocial anxiety Emotion regulation Ecological momentary assessment
This study was supported by a University of Virginia Postdoctoral and Predoctoral Fellowship Grant awarded to the two senior authors, and a R01MH113752 Grant to the final author.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the Ethical Standards of the Institutional and/or National Research Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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