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Research Overview

Post-Event Processing Following Social and Nonsocial Evaluative Feedback

Following a social evaluative situation, socially anxious people may retrieve negative information about themselves and others during the situation, and brood over this negative material after the situation has occurred. This process is called post-event processing (PEP), and has been theorized to contribute to the maintenance of social anxiety. Predictors of PEP can either be aspects of the person (e.g. dispositional tendencies) or aspects of the context (e.g. the nature of the event).

In a set of studies, Gizem Altheimer and Heather Urry examined potential person- and context-based predictors of PEP. In Study 1, we exposed participants (N = 101) to an evaluative task, and examined whether a version of this task involving social feedback would predict higher PEP than a version involving nonsocial feedback. We did not find support for this hypothesis. However, we found that, in the week following the event, those who were high in social anxiety may engage in consistently high PEP after receiving social, but not nonsocial feedback.

In Study 2, in addition to the social vs. nonsocial feedback manipulation, we also tested whether prompting those high in social anxiety to use emotion regulation during the evaluative tasks might alter this trajectory, compared to a control condition. The methods and analysis plan for this study were preregistered, learn more. We did not find support for this hypothesis. However, in a series of exploratory analyses, we found that those who received social feedback engaged in higher PEP on day 1 compared to those who received nonsocial feedback. In addition, those who were prompted to regulate their emotions experienced an earlier reduction in negative PEP compared to those who were not. Taken together, these studies find support for social feedback and emotion regulation as potential predictors of PEP, supporting the theoretical accounts of PEP.

Social Anxiety

The figure above shows the effects of feedback type (left) and emotion regulation condition (right) on estimated adjusted means of negative PEP. Error bars represent ±1 SEM.