Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Sarah A. Hayes-Skelton

Second Advisor

David W. Pantalone

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright


Better understanding the mechanisms of behavioral action may inform therapeutic practices, such as exposures and behavioral experiments, which emphasize increasing behavioral action and decreasing behavioral avoidance. Thus, the goal of the present study was to investigate the role of social cost bias (overestimation of a social outcome’s negative impact), probability bias (overestimation of a negative social outcome’s likelihood), and self-efficacy to achieve a specific goal or outcome (belief in one’s ability to take action in order to meet a goal or outcome) as predictors of behavioral action in individuals along a continuum of social anxiety. We examined these mechanisms by presenting undergraduate student participants with a series of short vignettes of social situations. Each vignette was followed by questions evaluating participants’ social cost bias, probability bias, self-efficacy, and likelihood of taking a specified behavioral action. Additionally, we collected self-report measures of participants’ social anxiety (SPIN: Connor et al., 2000) and depression (DASS-D: Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995). The sample consisted of 197 participants (mean age = 23.82) from various racial identities. The results indicated that, controlling for depression, probability bias, social cost bias, and self-efficacy to achieve a specific goal or outcome predicted behavioral action, accounting for 68% of the variance of behavioral action (R = .83, F(4, 179) = 96.22, p < .001). Additionally, self-efficacy was the strongest predictor of behavioral action (ß = .78, p < .001). Further, mediation analyses revealed significant indirect effects of: social anxiety on behavioral action through self-efficacy (point est = -.28; 95% CI [-.39,-.19]), social cost bias on self-efficacy through social anxiety (point est = -.22; 95% CI [-.29,-.15]), and probability bias on self-efficacy through social anxiety (point est = -.20; 95% CI [-.30,-.10]). The findings suggest that, for individuals with social anxiety, decreasing social anxiety by decreasing probability and cost estimates and increasing self-efficacy may increase the likelihood of engagement in behavioral action. This information has implications for potential methods and target mechanisms for increasing client engagement with exposures and behavioral experiments in social anxiety treatments.


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