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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of social standards, self-efficacy, and social feedback in social anxiety Wallace, Scott Taylor


The present study was conducted to examine the self-reported social standards of socially efficacious and non-efficacious individuals. Converging evidence from different research domains, including studies on self-attentional processes and standard-setting in performance motivation, suggests that the socially anxious person may have standards for him or herself that are beyond that person's perceived abilities; alternatively, standards may be so high that they are beyond the reach of even the most socially confident person. Ninety-six male undergraduate students were dichotomized into low and high social-efficacy groups on the basis of their response to a measure of self-efficacy and anxiety in social situations. The subjects were told they would be interacting with a female research assistant in order to practice before meeting another subject. The success of the practice interaction was manipulated by varying the assistant's behavior and feedback by the experimenter so that subjects believed they handled the conversation well or not well; a third condition was included with no feedback. Subjects were asked to rate their standards using a visual scale that displayed different levels of social interaction. The standards rated were: (1) the level of interaction that they consider successful, (2) the level of interaction that they would be happy with, (3) the level of interaction they think the experimenter wants, and (4) the level of a typical interaction. Additional measures were included to assess other aspects of standard and to determine the success of the manipulations. The results revealed that there is a consensus among high and low social-efficacy persons of what constitutes a successful interaction. The distinguishing feature appeared to be what level of interaction high and low efficacy persons are happy with and the level of interaction they felt capable of achieving. Low efficacy subjects had lower expectations and lower minimum goals of satisfaction whereas high efficacy subjects expected to achieve a level of interaction at least as high as their personal standard and beyond the level that they thought most others achieve. Further, when the interaction was successful, high efficacy subjects thought the situation demanded a lower level of interaction than they were capable of; low efficacy subjects, given the same successful experience, reported the demands of the situation to be higher than they felt capable of. The results hint at a dysfunctional standard-setting process in socially anxious persons whereby success is interpreted in a manner that may maintain anxiety. The implications that these results have for the treatment of shyness, and future directions for research on standard-setting are discussed.

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