Examination of emotional contagion and social anxiety using novel video stimuli
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Socially anxious individuals often exhibit signs of anxiety that might elicit discomfort in others and negatively influence their interactions, due in part to emotional contagion. However, there is limited research examining the phenomenon of emotional contagion in social anxiety, which is the topic of the current study. DESIGN AND METHODS: An experimental design was used in which undergraduate psychology students (N = 128) were assigned to either an experimental condition (watching a video of a socially anxious presenter) or a control condition (watching a video of a nonanxious presenter). Various measures were administered to assess social anxiety, emotional contagion, state anxiety, and related constructs. RESULTS: After controlling for baseline anxiety levels, participants in the experimental condition reported significantly higher levels of anxiety during and immediately after watching the video compared to individuals in the control condition (multivariate analysis of covariance, analysis of variance). Similar results were found across both conditions in participants with higher levels of trait social anxiety and higher public speaking anxiety (moderated regression analyses). CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that social anxiety may be emotionally contagious, and provides insight into the role that emotional contagion may play in the association between social anxiety and interpersonal functioning.
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