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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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Predicted values for learning phase and global interpretations from regression models testing for differential effects of condition and rule on FNE.BFNE = Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Rule contingencies like 80%, neutral 50%, dislike 20%. All regression models were a good fit for the data, each explaining around 64% of overall variance for the learning phase, and around 60% for the global ratings. We predicted the linear relationship between each rule and condition with social anxiety (coefficient and 95% confidence intervals) using the lincom command in Stata. These indicate that learning in the self-referential condition and in the neutral and disliked rules is most associated with FNE, and this holds for both the learning and global rating phases.
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pone.0119456.g003: Predicted values for learning phase and global interpretations from regression models testing for differential effects of condition and rule on FNE.BFNE = Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Rule contingencies like 80%, neutral 50%, dislike 20%. All regression models were a good fit for the data, each explaining around 64% of overall variance for the learning phase, and around 60% for the global ratings. We predicted the linear relationship between each rule and condition with social anxiety (coefficient and 95% confidence intervals) using the lincom command in Stata. These indicate that learning in the self-referential condition and in the neutral and disliked rules is most associated with FNE, and this holds for both the learning and global rating phases.

Mentions: Introducing the interactions of interest into the regression model for FNE found evidence for the predicted BFNE × referential condition interaction (interaction term = 0.28, 95% CI 0.01, 0.54, p = 0.04); consistent with our hypothesis, BFNE was associated with social learning specific to the self. At low FNE individuals made 9% more positive responses in the self-condition relative to the other-condition. According to the interaction term, each 10-point increase in BFNE score corresponded to a 3 percentage point reduction in positive responses in the self-condition. This is illustrated in Fig. 3; individuals with low FNE made more positive responses in the self-referential condition relative to the other-referential condition, and positive response rate decreased as a function of increasing FNE in the self-referential condition, while it remained more constant in the other-referential condition. This essentially resulted in a reduction in self-favouring with increasing FNE. There was also evidence of a BFNE × rule interaction (p = 0.002); increasing FNE was associated with a decreasing proportion of positive responses mostly for the neutral and disliked rules (Table 3; Fig. 3). There was some evidence that this decreasing positive response rate in the neutral and negative rules were strongest for the self-referential condition; Fig. 3 shows the predicted linear relationship between each of the six rule-conditions with FNE calculated using the lincom command in Stata. These linear terms indicate that responses in the self-dislike rule (i.e., reference categories) varied most with FNE (β = −0.42, 95% CI -0.67, -0.1.8), slightly less in the self-neutral rule (β = −0.35, 95% CI -0.59, -0.11), and did not vary with FNE in the self-positive rule (β = 0.04, 95% CI -0.20, -0.29). However, the three-way BFNE × referential condition × rule interaction term did not meet the criterion for statistical significance (p = 0.07; Table 3). The predicted values in Fig. 3 also suggest individuals with extreme low FNE were poor at learning the neutral and disliked rules in the self-condition; their proportion of positive responses was about 10% greater relative to the other-condition and about 20% greater than the actual rule contingency. As FNE increased this positive self-referential bias was attenuated. The predicted positive responses for those with highest FNE were similar to the actual rule contingencies suggesting that these individuals were accurate in learning across all rules. There was no evidence that the interaction of interest (i.e., FNE × condition) was modulated by age or gender (FNE × condition × age = 0.00, 95% CI -0.01, 0.00, p = 0.33; FNE × condition × gender = −0.04, 95% CI -0.15, 0.07, p = 0.51). Controlling for trait depression did not affect the results (coefficients remain the same as in Table 3); controlling for anxiety slightly increased the effect of FNE in the reference self-dislike condition (β = −0.5, 95% CI -0.8, -0.2, p = 0.003), but had no effect on the interaction terms given in Table 3. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found similar results when we replaced BFNE for other social anxiety variables, the SIAS and SPS (SIAS × condition β = 0.30, 95% CI 0.04, 0.56; p = 0.02, SPS × condition β = 0.41, 95% CI 0.07, 0.75, p = 0.02).


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)

Predicted values for learning phase and global interpretations from regression models testing for differential effects of condition and rule on FNE.BFNE = Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Rule contingencies like 80%, neutral 50%, dislike 20%. All regression models were a good fit for the data, each explaining around 64% of overall variance for the learning phase, and around 60% for the global ratings. We predicted the linear relationship between each rule and condition with social anxiety (coefficient and 95% confidence intervals) using the lincom command in Stata. These indicate that learning in the self-referential condition and in the neutral and disliked rules is most associated with FNE, and this holds for both the learning and global rating phases.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone.0119456.g003: Predicted values for learning phase and global interpretations from regression models testing for differential effects of condition and rule on FNE.BFNE = Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Rule contingencies like 80%, neutral 50%, dislike 20%. All regression models were a good fit for the data, each explaining around 64% of overall variance for the learning phase, and around 60% for the global ratings. We predicted the linear relationship between each rule and condition with social anxiety (coefficient and 95% confidence intervals) using the lincom command in Stata. These indicate that learning in the self-referential condition and in the neutral and disliked rules is most associated with FNE, and this holds for both the learning and global rating phases.
Mentions: Introducing the interactions of interest into the regression model for FNE found evidence for the predicted BFNE × referential condition interaction (interaction term = 0.28, 95% CI 0.01, 0.54, p = 0.04); consistent with our hypothesis, BFNE was associated with social learning specific to the self. At low FNE individuals made 9% more positive responses in the self-condition relative to the other-condition. According to the interaction term, each 10-point increase in BFNE score corresponded to a 3 percentage point reduction in positive responses in the self-condition. This is illustrated in Fig. 3; individuals with low FNE made more positive responses in the self-referential condition relative to the other-referential condition, and positive response rate decreased as a function of increasing FNE in the self-referential condition, while it remained more constant in the other-referential condition. This essentially resulted in a reduction in self-favouring with increasing FNE. There was also evidence of a BFNE × rule interaction (p = 0.002); increasing FNE was associated with a decreasing proportion of positive responses mostly for the neutral and disliked rules (Table 3; Fig. 3). There was some evidence that this decreasing positive response rate in the neutral and negative rules were strongest for the self-referential condition; Fig. 3 shows the predicted linear relationship between each of the six rule-conditions with FNE calculated using the lincom command in Stata. These linear terms indicate that responses in the self-dislike rule (i.e., reference categories) varied most with FNE (β = −0.42, 95% CI -0.67, -0.1.8), slightly less in the self-neutral rule (β = −0.35, 95% CI -0.59, -0.11), and did not vary with FNE in the self-positive rule (β = 0.04, 95% CI -0.20, -0.29). However, the three-way BFNE × referential condition × rule interaction term did not meet the criterion for statistical significance (p = 0.07; Table 3). The predicted values in Fig. 3 also suggest individuals with extreme low FNE were poor at learning the neutral and disliked rules in the self-condition; their proportion of positive responses was about 10% greater relative to the other-condition and about 20% greater than the actual rule contingency. As FNE increased this positive self-referential bias was attenuated. The predicted positive responses for those with highest FNE were similar to the actual rule contingencies suggesting that these individuals were accurate in learning across all rules. There was no evidence that the interaction of interest (i.e., FNE × condition) was modulated by age or gender (FNE × condition × age = 0.00, 95% CI -0.01, 0.00, p = 0.33; FNE × condition × gender = −0.04, 95% CI -0.15, 0.07, p = 0.51). Controlling for trait depression did not affect the results (coefficients remain the same as in Table 3); controlling for anxiety slightly increased the effect of FNE in the reference self-dislike condition (β = −0.5, 95% CI -0.8, -0.2, p = 0.003), but had no effect on the interaction terms given in Table 3. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found similar results when we replaced BFNE for other social anxiety variables, the SIAS and SPS (SIAS × condition β = 0.30, 95% CI 0.04, 0.56; p = 0.02, SPS × condition β = 0.41, 95% CI 0.07, 0.75, p = 0.02).

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