Publication Date

2016-07-08

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2016-07-08

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2016-04-06

First Committee Member

Kiara R. Timpano

Second Committee Member

Jutta Joormann

Third Committee Member

Charles S. Carver

Fourth Committee Member

Jill T. Ehrenreich-May

Fifth Committee Member

Armando J. Mendez

Abstract

In the current study, emotional and cognitive vulnerability factors for social anxiety and depression were examined using an RDoC framework. The overarching goals of the study were (1) to elucidate the symptom-specific and/or transdiagnostic nature of two cognitive vulnerability factors, interpretation biases and executive control, and (2) to examine the synergistic impact of these cognitive processes on emotional responding and clinical symptoms. To address these aims, the study recruited a sample of individuals at risk for current or future difficulties with social anxiety and depression symptoms (i.e., persons reporting elevated levels of repetitive negative thinking). The study then investigated how social anxiety- and depression-related interpretation biases and deficits in executive control were independently and interactively related to acute social-evaluative stress reactivity and recovery. In addition, the independent and interactive associations between interpretation biases and executive control were examined in relation to dimensional measures of social anxiety and depression symptoms. Findings supported the conceptualization of interpretation biases as transdiagnostic vulnerability factors associated with increased stress reactivity and symptoms of social anxiety and depression. In addition, interpretation biases interacted with executive control to predict elevated stress reactivity and more severe social anxiety symptoms. Future studies are needed to more closely examine the directionality of these relationships and the possibility that dysregulated acute stress reactivity serves as a mediator between cognitive vulnerability factors and symptoms of social anxiety and depression.

Keywords

Social anxiety; Depression; Repetitive negative thinking; Transdiagnostic; Interpretation Bias; Executive Control

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