Previous research has shown that high levels of trait social anxiety (SA) disrupt the social repair processes following a painful social exclusion, but the cognitive mechanisms involved in these processes and how trait SA may disrupt them remain unknown.
We conducted a preregistered study on Prolific participants (N = 452) who were assigned to experience either social exclusion or inclusion and were then exposed to follow-up opportunities for social reconnection.
Moderated mediation analyses revealed that irrespective of levels of SA, participants responded to social pain with heightened approach motivation and greater downstream positive affect. Exploratory analyses revealed that heightened desire to affiliate was driven by increased curiosity and attention to social rewards. Moreover, higher SA was associated with lower overall desire to affiliate and this relationship between SA and affiliation was mediated by diminished reward responsiveness.
Findings highlight the roles of goal pursuit and social reward responsiveness in social repair and how high levels of trait SA may disrupt these processes.