Kindness reduces avoidance goals in socially anxious individuals
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- Trew, J.L. & Alden, L.E. Motiv Emot (2015) 39: 892. doi:10.1007/s11031-015-9499-5
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Social avoidance goals have been linked to negative social outcomes and may contribute to the social impairment experienced by socially anxious individuals. In this study, we examined whether engaging in acts of kindness, a technique designed to increase happiness, decreases social avoidance goals in socially anxious participants and whether social anxiety reduction and hedonic enhancement (i.e., increased positive affect) mediate this effect. Socially anxious undergraduates were randomly assigned to three conditions: performing acts of kindness (AK; N = 38); exposure only (EO; N = 41); and recording life details (LD; N = 36), a neutral control condition. Participants engaged in these activities for 4 weeks. AK resulted in the greatest decrease in social avoidance goals by post-intervention. EO also reduced avoidance goals over time relative to LD. The effect of task condition on avoidance goals over time was fully mediated by social anxiety reduction over time. Neither AK nor EO increased positive affect. Implications for social anxiety treatment are discussed.