The Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale: assessing a proposed cognitive component of social anxiety.
ABSTRACT Cognitive-behavioral models propose that fear of negative evaluation is the core feature of social anxiety disorder. However, it may be that fear of evaluation in general is important in social anxiety, including fears of positive as well as negative evaluation. To test this hypothesis, we developed the Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale (FPES) and conducted analyses to examine the psychometric properties of the FPES, as well as test hypotheses regarding the construct of fear of positive evaluation (FPE). Responses from a large (n = 1711) undergraduate sample were utilized. The reliability, construct validity, and factorial validity of the FPES were examined; the distinction of FPE from fear of negative evaluation was evaluated utilizing confirmatory factor analysis; and the ability of FPE to predict social interaction anxiety above and beyond fear of negative evaluation was assessed. Results provide preliminary support for the psychometric properties of the FPES and the validity of the construct of FPE. The implications of FPE with respect to the study and treatment of social anxiety disorder are discussed.
Article: Exploring the latent structure of two cognitive components of social anxiety: taxometric analyses of fears of negative and positive evaluation.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Recent evidence suggests that social anxiety disorder is best characterized as having a dimensional latent structure. In this study, we examined the latent structure of two cognitive components of social anxiety, fear of negative evaluation (FNE) and fear of positive evaluation (FPE), in a large undergraduate sample. Two taxometric procedures (MAMBAC, Mean Above Minus Below a Cut and MAXEIG, MAXimum EIGenvalue) were performed with indicator sets drawn from self-report measures of FNE and FPE. Taxometric analyses, as well as comparison analyses utilizing simulated dimensional and taxonic datasets, yielded converging evidence that both FNE and FPE have a dimensional latent structure.Depression and Anxiety 01/2009; 26(2):E40-8. · 4.18 Impact Factor
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The Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale: Assessing a proposed
cognitive component of social anxiety§
Justin W. Weeksa, Richard G. Heimberga,*, Thomas L. Rodebaughb
aAdult Anxiety Clinic of Temple University, Department of Psychology, Temple University, Weiss Hall,
1701 North 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122-6085, United States
bDepartment of Psychology, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO, United States
Received 24 April 2007; received in revised form 27 July 2007; accepted 3 August 2007
Cognitive–behavioral models propose that fear of negative evaluation is the core feature of social anxiety disorder. However, it
may be that fear of evaluation in general is important in social anxiety, including fears of positive as well as negative evaluation. To
test this hypothesis, we developed the Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale (FPES) and conducted analyses to examine the
psychometric properties of the FPES, as well as test hypotheses regarding the construct of fear of positive evaluation (FPE).
Responses from a large (n = 1711) undergraduate sample were utilized. The reliability, construct validity, and factorial validity of
the FPES were examined; the distinction of FPE from fear of negative evaluation was evaluated utilizing confirmatory factor
analysis; and the ability of FPE to predict social interaction anxiety above and beyond fear of negative evaluation was assessed.
Results provide preliminary support for the psychometric properties of the FPES and the validity of the construct of FPE. The
implications of FPE with respect to the study and treatment of social anxiety disorder are discussed.
# 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Anxiety; Social anxiety disorder; Social phobia; Fear of positive evaluation; Fear of negative evaluation; Assessment
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is the fourth
most common psychiatric disorder, with a lifetime
prevalence rate of 12.1% (Kessler et al., 2005). It is
situations. The majority of patients seeking treatment
for social anxiety disorder report at least moderate
impairment in the areas of education, employment,
family relationships, marriage and romantic relation-
ships, and friendships (Schneier et al., 1994; Stein,
McQuaid, Laffaye, & McCahill, 1999). Furthermore,
the comorbidity of social anxiety disorder with other
disorders that produce significant impairment in
functioning, such as depression and alcoholism, is high
(Kessler, Stang, Wittchen, Stein, & Walters, 1999;
Schneier et al., 1994), and individuals with social
anxiety disorder rate their quality of life as very low
(Safren, Heimberg, Brown, & Holle, 1997). Given the
debilitating nature of social anxiety disorder, it is
essential that theoretical conceptualizations of the
disorder address all possible contributing factors.
Cognitive–behavioral models of social anxiety
Journal of Anxiety Disorders 22 (2008) 44–55
§Portions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the
Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, New Orleans,
LA, November 2004, and the annual meetings of the Anxiety Dis-
orders Association of America, Seattle, WA, March 2005, and Miami,
FL, March 2006.
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (R.G. Heimberg).
0887-6185/$ – see front matter # 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Author's personal copy
1997) have labeled fear of negative evaluation (FNE) a
core feature. Individuals with social anxiety disorder
assume that others are inherently critical and therefore
likely to evaluate them negatively (e.g., Leary,
Kowalski, & Campbell, 1988). Furthermore, it has
been hypothesized that socially anxious individuals
form a biased image or mental representation of
themselves as seen by others and simultaneously focus
their attentional resources onto both this internal
representation and onto perceived threats in the social
environment. Specifically, attentional resources are
allocated in part to the salient aspects of the image
(i.e., those that are both relevant to the situation and
environment for indicators of negative evaluation by
others (Rapee & Heimberg, 1997).
Rapee and Heimberg (1997) further proposed that
socially anxious individuals believe that others expect
them to perform to unrealistically high standards in
social situations. Because socially anxious individuals
likelihood of negative evaluation from the audience, as
well as the undesirable social consequences that follow
from it (e.g., rejection, loss of status), is likely to be
high. Anticipation of negative evaluation elicits anxiety
and devaluation of the mental representation of the self
as seen by others, creating a maladaptive negative
Models which highlight FNE as a core feature of
individuals with social anxiety disorder report negative
mental representations of their appearance and beha-
vior, particularly in anxiety-evoking social situations
(e.g., Coles, Turk, Heimberg, & Fresco, 2001; Hack-
man, Surawy, & Clark, 1998). These models have been
useful in explicating the manner in which individuals
with social anxiety disorder both perceive and process
information related to evaluation, as well as the manner
in which these cognitive processes differ between
individuals high and low in social anxiety (e.g., Foa,
Franklin, Perry, & Herbert, 1996; Horley, Williams,
Gonsalvez, & Gordon, 2004; Mansell & Clark, 1999).
Nonetheless, current models may neglectafundamental
component of socially anxious cognition: individuals
with social anxiety may fear positive evaluation as well
as negative evaluation.
1.1. Theoretical precedents for the construct of fear
of positive evaluation (FPE)
The present study is the first to examine FPE
as a potential feature of social anxiety. However, a
theoretical model that is consistent in part with this
notion is the ethological–psychobiological (i.e., psy-
cho-evolutionary) model of social anxiety put forth by
Gilbert (2001) and colleagues (e.g., Trower & Gilbert,
1989; Trower, Gilbert, & Sherling, 1990). According to
this model, social anxiety is directly related to agonistic
threat interactions in humans. The purpose of social
anxiety is to avoid unnecessarily challenging the
dominant member of a social group, while simulta-
neously remaining within the safe confines of thegroup.
Thus, Gilbert (2001) proposes that social anxiety is an
evolutionary mechanism that facilitates non-violent
interactions between individuals. In outlining his
ethological–psychobiological model, Gilbert suggested
that, ‘‘Those who feel inferior may fear increases in
status that might bring them into conflict with others, or
they may fear that any gains could not be maintained or
defended in the future’’ (2001, pp. 742–743). Gilbert
dubbed this concept the ‘‘fear of doing well’’ (p. 742).
Furthermore, consistent with Gilbert’s (2001) inter-
pretation, Wallace and Alden (1995, 1997) reported that
socially anxious individuals who were exposed to
positive social signals via structured social interaction
roleplays rated their social performance positively and
consequently worried that others would expect more of
them. However, they also believed that their typical
performance would not change. As a result, unlike
persons without social anxiety, they worried that initial
Indeed, after being given standardized (fictitious),
positively framed feedback on their social performance
social anxiety disorder predicted that they would
experience greater anxiety in a follow-up roleplay. In
contrast, patients given feedback highlighting the
absence of negative aspects of their performance did
not predict that they would experience higher anxiety in
the follow-up roleplay (Alden, Mellings, & Laposa,
2004). Taken together, these findings underscore the
importance of examining the effects of positive social
(1995, 1997) propose that fear of eventual negative
fear of positive appraisal, suggesting a lack of
differentiation between the constructs of FPE and
FNE. Therefore, one of the purposes of the present
study was to test whether FPE makes a unique contri-
bution to the prediction of social anxiety, as we propose,
or (if not) whether FPE is merely a proxy for FNE.
Thus, the basic concept of FPE has some precedent.
Indeed, Alden et al. (2004) have highlighted the need
for future research to address the way in which socially
J.W. Weeks et al./Journal of Anxiety Disorders 22 (2008) 44–55 45
Author's personal copy
anxious individuals process positive social information.
However, research to date has not addressed FPE as a
distinguishable cognitive feature of social anxiety.
socially anxious individuals, upon having performed
well and receiving positive evaluation, will fear reprisal
from others who they perceive to out-rank them. This
concept is based on social hierarchy dynamics;
evaluation of one’s social investment worthiness as
low relative to other members of the group triggers
submissive behaviors which function to inhibit (social)
aggression from other, more dominant group members
(Gilbert, 2001). In essence, socially anxious individuals
will fear performing well because it will draw attention
to themselves and draw them into direct competition for
social attention (i.e., resource competition). As an
illustration, a socially anxious individual who volun-
teers an opinion in a group setting and receives positive
feedback in response to it could fear that others (who
may have been previously leading thegroup discussion)
will become upset towards him/her for having ‘‘stolen
the show’’; the socially anxious individual would then
become concernedwith the impactthatthiseventwould
have on his/her relationship(s).
To examine the possibility of FPE, we developed the
Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale (FPES).1To this end,
the psychometric properties of the FPES in a large
undergraduate sample; with a secondary purpose of
examining the relationships between FPE, FNE, and
social anxiety. In addition to hypothesizing that FPE
would be significantly and positively associated with
social anxiety, we also hypothesized that FPE and FNE
would be positively correlated (albeit distinct) con-
structs, given that both of these constructs reflect
cognitive mechanisms which prompt avoidance of
conflict within competitive social contexts.
Analyses conducted with several undergraduate
samples are reported in the present paper, addressing
the following questions: (a) What are the characteristics
of the distribution of FPES scores? (b) Does the FPES
demonstrate adequate internal consistency and test–
retest reliability? (c) What is the factorial validity of the
FPES? (d) Utilizing confirmatory factor analysis to
examine responses to the FPES and a measure offear of
negative evaluation, does a two-factor ‘‘fear of
evaluation’’ model consisting of separate factors for
positive and negative evaluative fears obtain superior
model fit relative to a single-factor ‘‘fear of evaluation’’
model? (e) Does the FPES correlate with self-report
measures of social anxiety and fear of negative
evaluation? (f) Does the FPES correlate more strongly
with a measure of social interaction anxiety than with
measures of generalized anxiety, worry, and depres-
of scores obtained on a social interaction anxiety
measure above and beyond that already accounted for
by fear of negative evaluation?
Participants in the present study were undergradu-
ates enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course at
Temple University. FPES responses were collected
from a total sample of 1711 participants across 4
semesters. The four semester subsamples were pooled
into a larger group for several of the present analyses
and separated for several others, for the purpose of
cross-validation. Of the total 1711 participants, 72%
were female and 58.6% were Caucasian; the average
age was 19.18 years (S.D. = 2.73). Furthermore, 65
students (65.5% female, 70.7% Caucasian) from the
overall sample completed the FPES for a second time
after a period of approximately 5 weeks as part of their
participation in a separate study, thereby allowing a
preliminary assessment of test–retest reliability.
All participants completed a battery of question-
naires that included the FPES. Other measures were
administered that allowed for the assessment of the
convergent and discriminant validity of the FPES,
although administration of specific additional measures
varied across semesters (see below).
2.2.1. The Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale
The 10-item FPES uses a 10-point Likert-type rating
scale, ranging from 0 (not at all true) to 9 (very true). In
line with a scoring strategy recommended by Marsh
(1996), two reverse-scored items (items 5 and 10) were
included for the purpose of reducing the response bias
of acquiesence (i.e., a predisposition to answer all
questions affirmatively), but are not utilized in
to complete FPES items as though they pertain to
individuals that he or she ‘‘does not know very well’’ to
J.W. Weeks et al./Journal of Anxiety Disorders 22 (2008) 44–5546
1The FPES was developed to examine whether fear of positive
evaluation is a cognitive feature of social anxiety, not as a specific test
of Gilbert’s (2001) ethological/psychobiological model.
Author's personal copy
control for familiarity biases, because greater famil-
iarity with a conversation partner has been linked to
lower social anxiety (Vittengl & Holt, 1998).
FPES items were rationally generated and designed
to exclusively assess fear of positive evaluation; thus,
items that could potentially be construed as pertaining
to fear of negative evaluation include qualifiers
specifying that the relevant situation indeed involves
positive evaluation (e.g., ‘‘I don’t like to be noticed in
public places, even if I feel as though I am being
admired’’). Furthermore, FPES items are structured to
incorporate social hierarchy dynamics. For example,
several items pertain to group settings, thereby
providing context for a hierarchical interpretation. In
addition, other FPES items refer to individuals who
would rank high on a social hierarchy relative to the
respondent (e.g., authority figures, individuals to whom
the respondent is attracted). FPES items and rating
instructions are provided in Table 1.
2.2.2. Measures of convergent validity
126.96.36.199. Social Interaction Anxiety Scale—Straightfor-
ward score (SIAS-S; Rodebaugh, Woods, & Heimberg,
2007). The Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS;
Mattick & Clarke, 1998) is a measure of anxiety in
dyads and groups and consists of 20 items which are
scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 0
(not at all characteristic or true of me) to 4 (extremely
characteristic or true of me). Examples of SIAS items
include ‘‘I find it easy to make friends of my own age’’
and ‘‘When mixing in a group, I find myself worrying I
will be ignored.’’ Rodebaugh et al. have reported that
the 17 straightforwardly worded items of the SIAS are
more valid indicators of social interaction anxiety than
the reverse-scored items in both undergraduate and
clinical samples. Consequently, Rodebaugh et al.
suggested the scoring strategy of utilizing only the
straightforward SIAS items to calculate the total score,
thereby yieldinga17-itemscore,hereafter referredtoas
the SIAS–Straightforward score. The SIAS-S has
demonstrated excellent internal consistency (a = .93)
and factorial validity in undergraduate samples, and
construct validity in both undergraduate and clinical
samples (Rodebaugh,Holaway,& Heimberg,submitted
for review; Rodebaugh, Woods, et al., 2007). The 20-
item SIAS was administered to the overall sample.
However, only the straightforward items (SIAS-S) were
utilized in the present analyses2and demonstrated
excellent internal consistency (a = .93).
188.8.131.52. Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation—Straight-
forward score (BFNE-S; Rodebaugh et al., 2004;
Weeks et al., 2005). The Brief Fear of Negative
Evaluation (BFNE; Leary, 1983) scale is a 12-item self-
report measure of fear and distress related to negative
evaluation from others, a core feature of social anxiety
disorder. Items are rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale,
ranging from 1 (not at all characteristic of me) to 5
(extremely characteristic of me). Rodebaugh et al.
(2004) and Weeks et al. (2005) have reported that the
eight straightforwardly worded items of the BFNE are
more reliable and valid indicators of fear of negative
J.W. Weeks et al./Journal of Anxiety Disorders 22 (2008) 44–55 47
The Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale
I am uncomfortable exhibiting my talents to others, even if I think my talents will impress them.
It would make me anxious to receive a compliment from someone that I am attracted to.
I try to choose clothes that will give people little impression of what I am like.
I feel uneasy when I receive praise from authority figures.
If I have something to say that I think a group will find interesting, I typically say it.
I would rather receive a compliment from someone when that person and I were alone than when in the presence of others.
If I was doing something well in front of others, I would wonder whether I was doing ‘‘too well.’’
I generally feel uncomfortable when people give me compliments.
I don’t like to be noticed when I am in public places, even if I feel as though I am being admired.
I often feel under-appreciated, and wish people would comment more on my positive qualities. 10.
Read each of the following statements carefully and fill in a numbered bubble on the answer sheet to indicate the degree to which you feel the
statementis characteristicof you,usingthe followingscale. Foreach statement,respondas thoughit involves peoplethat youdo not knowvery well.
sum of the remaining eight items.
2Results using the SIAS total score are available upon request and
are substantively identical to the current results.