Title : The Association between Intolerance of Uncertainty with Social Interaction Anxiety and Performance Anxiety - Mediating Factors
BACKGROUND: Despite the potential importance of intolerance of uncertainty (IU) as a transdiagnostic feature that may contribute specifically to social anxiety, empirical data on the construct has been relatively scant and focused largely on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A number of studies have indicated that IU and social anxiety are highly associated; however, the question of what intermediate variables may help explain this association requires exploration. Identification of potential indirect effects, such as interpretations of ambiguous social information and sensitivity to real or perceived negative evaluation, is thus warranted.
METHOD: Sixty-six undergraduate students from Lakehead University ranging in age from 17 to 52 completed the study. Participants were administered the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS), the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS), the Social Phobia Scale (SPS; a measure assessing fear of being scrutinized in specific performance situations), and the Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale - 2 (BFNE-2). They moreover completed two measures that assessed negative interpretation bias in social anxiety, namely the Ambiguous Judgment Questionnaire (AJQ) and the Ambiguous Social Situation Interpretation Questionnaire (ASSIQ).
RESULTS: Mediation models were estimated using a bootstrapping approach (Hayes, 2013). The first analysis indicated that fear of negative evaluation significantly mediated the relationship between IU and social interaction anxiety (ab = .24), as well as the relationship between IU and performance anxiety (ab = .24). Negative interpretations of ambiguous social information (as reflected by ASSIQ scores) significantly mediated the relationship between IU and social interaction anxiety, (ab = .09). Negative interpretations of ambiguous interpersonal events on the AJQ likewise significantly mediated the relationship between IU and social interaction anxiety (ab = .05).
CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that IU about the possibility of being negatively judged by others in interpersonal or performance situations may lead to a fear of such negative evaluation, which may in turn induce and maintain social anxiety. Moreover, individuals with social interaction anxiety may be so distressed by uncertainty about the possible meaning or consequences of ambiguous social information, that they may biasedly interpret the information negatively in hopes of experiencing a swift reduction in distress. Indeed, this is consistent with prior research indicating that individuals with GAD were so distressed by uncertainty that they preferred a certain negative outcome to an uncertain outcome (Koerner & Dugas, 2006). Future research would therefore benefit from examining whether and how targeted reductions in fear of negative evaluation and negative interpretations of ambiguous social information can ameliorate social anxiety symptoms.