Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Sarah A. Hayes-Skelton

Second Advisor

David Pantalone

Third Advisor

Rhiana Wegner


The present between-subjects experiment investigated self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to achieve an outcome) and finding personal meaning in a behavior as predictors of behavioral action in the context of social anxiety. Better understanding predictors of behavioral action may inform therapeutic exposures, which emphasize increasing behavioral action. Participants (N = 68) were given the chance to take the behavioral action of recording a position statement about a current social issue for a video blog. Participants were randomized to either the finding personal meaning (n = 34) or control (n = 34) conditions. To maximize the difference between these groups, participants in the finding personal meaning condition were assigned to speak on the social issue that they rated as being the most important (vs. the least important), and completed a writing task on finding personal meaning in recording a position statement (vs. writing about the contents of their bedroom). Participants were also assessed for state social anxiety and self-efficacy. The sample consisted of diverse participants (mean age = 21.76, SD = 5.78) from various racial identities. The results indicated that finding personal meaning and self-efficacy significantly predicted behavioral action (Wald Criterion = 8.40, z = 2.90, p < .01; Wald Criterion = 11.17, z = 3.34, p = .001, respectively). Interestingly, while state social anxiety neither had a direct effect on behavioral action, nor interacted with finding personal meaning, it did have an indirect effect on behavioral action through self-efficacy (Wald Criterion = 1.38, z = -1.17, p = .24; Wald Criterion = 0.02, p = .90; point estimation = -.07, 95% CI [-0.21, -0.01], respectively). The findings suggest that finding personal meaning in or increasing one’s self-efficacy to enact a social anxiety-provoking behavior can increase the likelihood of that behavior. The findings also indicate that individuals can still increase the likelihood of engaging in the behavior by finding personal meaning in that behavior, even if their self-efficacy is negatively impacted by their state social anxiety about that behavior. Such information may point us toward potential methods and target mechanisms for increasing client engagement with exposures in social anxiety.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.