Social anxiety is a prevalent mental health concern. Models of social anxiety incorporate multifaceted components from cognitive appraisals to attention as factors maintaining the disorder. Multimodal research investigating multiple facets of social anxiety simultaneously offers an important avenue to advance our understanding of the disorder.
The current study tested a novel, internet-based simulated teleconferencing interaction social stressor challenge and included the collection of self-report, eye-tracking, and auditory vocal data during the challenge. Participants (N = 262) completed two interactions. The pre-recorded male and female audience members (assigned to display interest or uninterest) discussed a topic and then prompted the participant to speak on that topic.
Fidelity indices revealed that most participants rated the interactions with the simulated audience as realistic; reported heightened subjective distress during the simulated teleconferencing interactions; and correctly rated audience members’ level of interest. As predicted, social anxiety predicted participants’ subjective distress during the simulated teleconferencing interactions. Findings from audio vocal and eye tracking analyses largely corresponded to prior research – indicating that social anxiety influences audio vocal responses and patterns of attention during social stressors.
Taken together, these findings suggest that the simulated teleconferencing interaction framework introduced here offers a potentially useful approach for the remote investigation of mechanisms underpinning social anxiety.