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Fear of negative evaluation biases social evaluation inference: evidence from a probabilistic learning task.

Button KS, Kounali D, Stapinski L, Rapee RM, Lewis G, Munafò MR - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: At low FNE the proportion of positive words selected for self-neutral and self-disliked greatly exceeded the feedback contingency, indicating poor learning, which improved as FNE increased.FNE is associated with differences in processing social-evaluative information specifically about the self.High FNE individuals are equally sensitive to learning positive or negative evaluation, which although objectively more accurate, may have detrimental effects on mental health.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT

Background: Fear of negative evaluation (FNE) defines social anxiety yet the process of inferring social evaluation, and its potential role in maintaining social anxiety, is poorly understood. We developed an instrumental learning task to model social evaluation learning, predicting that FNE would specifically bias learning about the self but not others.

Methods: During six test blocks (3 self-referential, 3 other-referential), participants (n = 100) met six personas and selected a word from a positive/negative pair to finish their social evaluation sentences "I think [you are / George is]…". Feedback contingencies corresponded to 3 rules, liked, neutral and disliked, with P[positive word correct] = 0.8, 0.5 and 0.2, respectively.

Results: As FNE increased participants selected fewer positive words (β = -0.4, 95% CI -0.7, -0.2, p = 0.001), which was strongest in the self-referential condition (FNE × condition 0.28, 95% CI 0.01, 0.54, p = 0.04), and the neutral and dislike rules (FNE × condition × rule, p = 0.07). At low FNE the proportion of positive words selected for self-neutral and self-disliked greatly exceeded the feedback contingency, indicating poor learning, which improved as FNE increased.

Conclusions: FNE is associated with differences in processing social-evaluative information specifically about the self. At low FNE this manifests as insensitivity to learning negative self-referential evaluation. High FNE individuals are equally sensitive to learning positive or negative evaluation, which although objectively more accurate, may have detrimental effects on mental health.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Cumulative mean positive responses over the 32 trials during the learning phase.Learning curves for high (n = 50) and low FNE (n = 50) individuals based on median split of test-day BFNE scores. The high and low FNE groups vary most over the initial trials where high FNE made fewer positive responses. After the initial trials the high and low groups behave similarly except in the neutral and dislike rules in the self-referential condition where the learning curves are clearly separated. The clear differentiation of the curves by rule indicates that individuals were adjusting their response in response to feedback.
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pone.0119456.g002: Cumulative mean positive responses over the 32 trials during the learning phase.Learning curves for high (n = 50) and low FNE (n = 50) individuals based on median split of test-day BFNE scores. The high and low FNE groups vary most over the initial trials where high FNE made fewer positive responses. After the initial trials the high and low groups behave similarly except in the neutral and dislike rules in the self-referential condition where the learning curves are clearly separated. The clear differentiation of the curves by rule indicates that individuals were adjusting their response in response to feedback.

Mentions: To visualise the learning process we plotted the cumulative mean positive responses for the 32 trials for high and low FNE (median split of test-day BFNE scores, Fig. 2). To explore the nature of any FNE-related differences in social-evaluative learning we examined how individuals adjusted their responses following feedback during the learning phases. We looked at correct-repeat behaviour for positive and negative words, that is how often individuals chose the positive word, after being told their previous positive word choice was “correct”. We also looked at incorrect-shift behaviour; that is, how often participants changed the valence of their response after being told they were “incorrect”. To formally test whether FNE was related to differences in these learning outcomes, and whether this varied according to referential condition, we modelled each of the learning outcomes (correct-repeat, incorrect-switch) as a function of FNE, referential condition, rule and the FNE by condition interaction separately for positive and negative words using mixed-effects Poisson regression.


Fear of negative evaluation biases social evaluation inference: evidence from a probabilistic learning task.

Button KS, Kounali D, Stapinski L, Rapee RM, Lewis G, Munafò MR - PLoS ONE (2015)

Cumulative mean positive responses over the 32 trials during the learning phase.Learning curves for high (n = 50) and low FNE (n = 50) individuals based on median split of test-day BFNE scores. The high and low FNE groups vary most over the initial trials where high FNE made fewer positive responses. After the initial trials the high and low groups behave similarly except in the neutral and dislike rules in the self-referential condition where the learning curves are clearly separated. The clear differentiation of the curves by rule indicates that individuals were adjusting their response in response to feedback.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4390305&req=5

pone.0119456.g002: Cumulative mean positive responses over the 32 trials during the learning phase.Learning curves for high (n = 50) and low FNE (n = 50) individuals based on median split of test-day BFNE scores. The high and low FNE groups vary most over the initial trials where high FNE made fewer positive responses. After the initial trials the high and low groups behave similarly except in the neutral and dislike rules in the self-referential condition where the learning curves are clearly separated. The clear differentiation of the curves by rule indicates that individuals were adjusting their response in response to feedback.
Mentions: To visualise the learning process we plotted the cumulative mean positive responses for the 32 trials for high and low FNE (median split of test-day BFNE scores, Fig. 2). To explore the nature of any FNE-related differences in social-evaluative learning we examined how individuals adjusted their responses following feedback during the learning phases. We looked at correct-repeat behaviour for positive and negative words, that is how often individuals chose the positive word, after being told their previous positive word choice was “correct”. We also looked at incorrect-shift behaviour; that is, how often participants changed the valence of their response after being told they were “incorrect”. To formally test whether FNE was related to differences in these learning outcomes, and whether this varied according to referential condition, we modelled each of the learning outcomes (correct-repeat, incorrect-switch) as a function of FNE, referential condition, rule and the FNE by condition interaction separately for positive and negative words using mixed-effects Poisson regression.

Bottom Line: At low FNE the proportion of positive words selected for self-neutral and self-disliked greatly exceeded the feedback contingency, indicating poor learning, which improved as FNE increased.FNE is associated with differences in processing social-evaluative information specifically about the self.High FNE individuals are equally sensitive to learning positive or negative evaluation, which although objectively more accurate, may have detrimental effects on mental health.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT

Background: Fear of negative evaluation (FNE) defines social anxiety yet the process of inferring social evaluation, and its potential role in maintaining social anxiety, is poorly understood. We developed an instrumental learning task to model social evaluation learning, predicting that FNE would specifically bias learning about the self but not others.

Methods: During six test blocks (3 self-referential, 3 other-referential), participants (n = 100) met six personas and selected a word from a positive/negative pair to finish their social evaluation sentences "I think [you are / George is]…". Feedback contingencies corresponded to 3 rules, liked, neutral and disliked, with P[positive word correct] = 0.8, 0.5 and 0.2, respectively.

Results: As FNE increased participants selected fewer positive words (β = -0.4, 95% CI -0.7, -0.2, p = 0.001), which was strongest in the self-referential condition (FNE × condition 0.28, 95% CI 0.01, 0.54, p = 0.04), and the neutral and dislike rules (FNE × condition × rule, p = 0.07). At low FNE the proportion of positive words selected for self-neutral and self-disliked greatly exceeded the feedback contingency, indicating poor learning, which improved as FNE increased.

Conclusions: FNE is associated with differences in processing social-evaluative information specifically about the self. At low FNE this manifests as insensitivity to learning negative self-referential evaluation. High FNE individuals are equally sensitive to learning positive or negative evaluation, which although objectively more accurate, may have detrimental effects on mental health.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus