Two studies aimed to examine whether high socially anxious individuals are more likely to negatively interpret ambiguous social scenarios and facial expressions compared to low socially anxious individuals. We also examined whether interpretation bias serves as a mediator of the relationship between trait social anxiety and state anxiety responses, in particular current state anxiety, bodily sensations, and perceived probability and cost of negative evaluation pertaining to a speech task. Study 1 used ambiguous social scenarios and Study 2 used ambiguous facial expressions as stimuli to objectively assess interpretation bias. Undergraduate students with high and low social anxiety completed measures of state anxiety responses at three time points: baseline, after the interpretation bias task, and after the preparation for an impromptu speech. Results showed that high socially anxious individuals were more likely to endorse threat interpretations for ambiguous social scenarios and to interpret ambiguous faces as negative than low socially anxious individuals. Furthermore, negative interpretations mediated the relationship between trait social anxiety and perceived probability of negative evaluation pertaining to the speech task in Study 1 but not Study 2. The present studies provide new insight into the role of interpretation bias in social anxiety.
- bodily sensations
- interpretation bias
- perceived probability and cost of negative evaluation
- Social anxiety
- state anxiety