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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effects of social anxiety on accuracy in first impressions Aiken, Audrey


Since individuals with social anxiety tend to have difficulties making friends, it may be due to inaccuracy in making and giving off first impressions. The current study used 104 undergraduate students to examine two hypotheses: that individuals high in social anxiety are less accurate in their first impressions of others, and that others form less accurate first impressions of individuals high in social anxiety. Following the Social Accuracy Methodology (SAM; Biesanz, 2010), accuracy was looked at in two ways: normative and distinctive accuracy. Participants rated their own personalities on the abbreviate BFI, engaged in brief round robin interactions with each participant, and then rated their partners’ personalities on the same measures. Using hierarchical linear modeling, no support was found for the first set of hypotheses. Perceivers high in social anxiety were equally normatively and distinctly accurate in their appraisals of others’ personalities as were perceivers low in social anxiety. Mixed findings were found for the second research question. Targets higher in social anxiety were perceived with the same degree of normative accuracy as targets lower in social anxiety. However, targets higher in social anxiety were perceived with less distinctive accuracy compared to targets lower in social anxiety. These findings may have important implications for understanding why socially anxious individuals have difficulty forming friendships, and consequently, may have implications for treatments.

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