How Trait and State Social Anxiety Impact Perceptions of Support when Sharing Good News with Romantic Partners: Using the Actor-partner Interdependence Model to Explore Self-reports, Partner-reports, and Behavioral Observations

Panagiota Ferssizidis

Advisor: Todd B. Kashdan, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Patrick E. McKnight, Xiaoquan Zhao

David J. King Hall, #2064
June 11, 2013, 10:00 AM to 07:30 AM


Information processing biases and positivity deficits are central to theories of social anxiety (e.g., Clark & Wells, 1995; Hofmann, 2007; Kashdan, Weeks, & Savostyanova, 2011). Extending prior work on cognitive biases in social anxiety, the present study examined whether individual differences in trait and state social anxiety alter the perception of support provided and received when sharing good news with romantic partners (i.e., capitalization support) and how this influences romantic relationship satisfaction and commitment.  In this study of 141 heterosexual couples (average age of 21.5 with 60% identifying as Caucasian), greater social anxiety during an interaction task (i.e., state anxiety) was associated with misperceptions of support as assessed by self-report, partner-report, and observer ratings. In addition, people were more likely to underestimate their partner’s supportiveness when their partner experienced greater state anxiety during the interaction. Trait social anxiety did not significantly predict misperceptions of support when controlling for state anxiety. However, women with higher trait social anxiety had partners who reported lower commitment in the relationship. Both self and partner perceptions of support predicted relationship outcomes. For women, underestimating a partner’s responsiveness was associated with lower relationship satisfaction and commitment. The impact of self-responsiveness on the relationship differed for men and women. Together, these findings may help researchers and clinicians better understand how self-evaluative concerns when interacting with close others contributes to skewed perceptions of reality and relational consequences.