Examining the association between trust and fear of negative evaluation.

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Fear of negative evaluation, the belief that there is high cost associated with negative evaluation by others, is a core risk factor for social anxiety disorder within cognitive-behavioral conceptual models and a core target for intervention when treating that disorder. This study sought to better understand correlates and causes of fear of negative evaluation by extending existing proposals that fear of negative evaluation originates because of personality traits. The personality trait of trust is essential to all social interactions and could influence assumptions that worsen fear of negative evaluation in social situations. This two-part study provided the first known examination of the relationship between trust and fear of negative evaluation. In the first part of the study, among a sample of 590 undergraduate students, trust was examined at a trait level in relation to fear of negative evaluation. Contrary to predictions, and although trait trust shared a small negative bivariate relationship with fear of negative evaluation, trait trust did not explain unique variance in fear of negative evaluation when accounting for statistical overlap among other relevant personality traits. In the second part of the study, among a subset of 161 undergraduate students who participated in the first part of the study, trust was examined at a state level using an experimental design in relation to fear of negative evaluation. Contrary to predictions, and although the experimental manipulation changed state levels of trust, prompting (dis)trust did not result in an increase of fear of negative evaluation. Although predictions generally were unsupported, the personality trait of respectfulness unexpectedly stood out as a potential trait of interest in future research examining personality traits that may further account for the development and maintenance of fear of negative evaluation.

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