Learning biases underlying individual differences in sensitivity to social rejection

Emotion. 2013 Aug;13(4):616-21. doi: 10.1037/a0033150.


People vary greatly in their dispositions to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and strongly react to social rejection (rejection sensitivity [RS]) with implications for social functioning and health. Here, we examined how RS influences learning about social threat. Using a classical fear conditioning task, we established that high compared to low individuals displayed a resistance to extinction of the conditioned response to angry faces, but not to neutral faces or nonsocial stimuli. Our findings suggest that RS biases the flexible updating of acquired expectations for threat, which helps to explain how RS operates as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Rejection, Psychology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult