Fear of negative evaluation moderates effects of social exclusion on selective attention to social signs

Cogn Emot. 2015;29(7):1306-13. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.977848. Epub 2014 Nov 14.


Previous studies demonstrated that fear of negative evaluation (FNE) moderates responses to exclusion in late-stage social outcomes (e.g., social judgements and behaviours). People with low levels of FNE show affiliative responses, feeling compelled to recover their sense of belonging, whereas people with high levels of FNE do not. This study examined whether FNE also moderates responses to exclusion in early-stage interpersonal perception, manifested in selective attention. The experiment using a dot-probe task revealed that exclusion led participants with low levels of FNE to increase attention to signs of social acceptance (i.e., smiling faces). It also revealed that exclusion led those with high levels of FNE to pay more attention to signs of social threat (i.e., angry faces) relative to those of social acceptance. Thus, exclusion makes the motivation to protect oneself from social threats dominant over the motivation to reestablish social bonds among those who fear negative evaluation.

Keywords: Fear of negative evaluation; Selective attention; Social exclusion.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Rejection, Psychology*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Games / psychology
  • Young Adult