Selected Publications

Objective: Network analysis allows us to identify the most interconnected (i.e., central) symptoms, and multiple authors have suggested that these symptoms might be important treatment targets. This is because change in central symptoms (relative to others) should have greater impact on change in all other symptoms. It has been argued that networks derived from cross-sectional data may help identify such important symptoms. We tested this hypothesis in social anxiety disorder.
Method: We first estimated a state-of-the-art regularized partial correlation network based on participants with social anxiety disorder (N = 910) to determine which symptoms were more central. Next, we tested whether change in these central symptoms were indeed more related to overall symptom change in a separate dataset of participants with social anxiety disorder who underwent a variety of treatments (N = 244). We also tested whether relatively superficial item properties (infrequency of endorsement and variance of items) might account for any effects shown for central symptoms.
Results: Centrality indices successfully predicted how strongly changes in items correlated with change in the remainder of the items. Findings were limited to the measure used in the network and did not generalize to three other measures related to social anxiety severity. In contrast, infrequency of endorsement showed associations across all measures. Conclusions: The transfer of recently published results from cross-sectional network analyses to treatment data is unlikely to be straightforward.
Recent evidence suggests that reduced generosity among individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) in behavioral economic tasks may result from constraint in changing behavior according to interpersonal contingencies. That is, people with SAD may be slower to be more generous when the situation warrants. Conversely, more global effects on generosity may be related to interpersonal vindictiveness, a dimension only somewhat related to SAD. A total of 133 participants, 73 with the generalized form of SAD, completed self-report instruments and a behavioral economic task with simulated interpersonal (friend, romantic partner, stranger) interactions. In a separate visit, friends (n = 88) also came to the lab and rated participants on vindictiveness. Interpersonal vindictiveness was associated with reduced initial and overall giving to simulated friends. SAD predicted a lack of increased giving to a simulated friend, and attenuated an increase in giving to simulated known versus unknown players compared to participants without SAD. Friend-reported vindictiveness predicted in the same direction as diagnosis. However, the findings for SAD were less robust than those for vindictiveness. SAD is perhaps weakly related to behavioral constraint in economic tasks that simulate interpersonal interactions, whereas vindictiveness is strongly related to lower overall generosity as well as (via friend report) behavioral constraint. Further study is needed to better characterize the construct of vindictiveness. Our findings dovetail with the suggestion that SAD is related to impairment in the proposed affiliation and attachment system, but further suggest that direct study of that system may be more fruitful than focusing on disorders.
The use of unreliable measures constitutes a threat to our understanding of psychopathology, because advancement of science using both behavioral and biologically oriented measures can only be certain if such measurements are reliable. Two pillars of the National Institute of Mental Health's portfolio-the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative for psychopathology and the target engagement initiative in clinical trials-cannot succeed without measures that possess the high reliability necessary for tests involving mediation and selection based on individual differences. We focus on the historical lack of reliability of attentional bias measures as an illustration of how reliability can pose a threat to our understanding. Our own data replicate previous findings of poor reliability for traditionally used scores, which suggests a serious problem with the ability to test theories regarding attentional bias. This lack of reliability may also suggest problems with the assumption (in both theory and the formula for the scores) that attentional bias is consistent and stable across time. In contrast, measures accounting for attention as a dynamic process in time show good reliability in our data. The field is sorely in need of research reporting findings and reliability for attentional bias scores using multiple methods, including those focusing on dynamic processes over time. We urge researchers to test and report reliability of all measures, considering findings of low reliability not just as a nuisance but as an opportunity to modify and improve upon the underlying theory. Full assessment of reliability of measures will maximize the possibility that RDoC (and psychological science more generally) will succeed. (PsycINFO Database Record.
Social anxiety disorder is associated with lower interpersonal warmth, possibly explaining its associated interpersonal impairment. Across two samples, we attempted to replicate previous findings that the disorder's constraint of interpersonal warmth can be detected via behavioral economic tasks. We also tested the test-retest stability of task indices. Results indicated that factors associated with social anxiety disorder (and not the disorder itself), such as the severity of social anxiety and more extreme interpersonal problems, lead to less generous behavior on the economic task examined. Results were clearest regarding fine-grained indices derived from latent trajectories. Unexpectedly, the combination of generalized anxiety disorder and higher depression also restricted generosity. Two of three indices showed acceptable test-retest stability. Maladaptive giving behavior may be a treatment target to improve interpersonal functioning in psychiatric disorders; therefore, future work should more precisely characterize behavioral economic tasks, including basic psychometric work (i.e., tests of reliability and validity).

Rodebaugh, T. L., Lim, M. L., Shumaker, E. A., Levinson, C. A., & Thompson, T. (2015). Social anxiety and friendship over time. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 44, 502-511.

High social anxiety in adults is associated with self-report of impaired friendship quality, but not necessarily with impairment reported by friends. Further, prospective prediction of social anxiety and friendship quality over time has not been tested among adults. We therefore examined friendship quality and social anxiety prospectively in 126 young adults (67 primary participants and 59 friends, aged 17-22 years); the primary participants were screened to be extreme groups to increase power and relevance to clinical samples (i.e., they were recruited based on having very high or very low social interaction anxiety). The prospective relationships between friendship quality and social anxiety were then tested using an Actor-Partner Interdependence Model. Friendship quality prospectively predicted social anxiety over time within each individual in the friendship, such that higher friendship quality at Time 1 predicted lower social anxiety approximately 6 months later at Time 2. Social anxiety did not predict friendship quality. Although the results support the view that social anxiety and friendship quality have an important causal relationship, the results run counter to the assumption that high social anxiety causes poor friendship quality. Interventions to increase friendship quality merit further consideration.

Rodebaugh, T. L., Lim, M. H., Fernandez, K. C., Langer, J. K., Weisman, J. S., Tonge, N., Levinson, C. A., & Shumaker, E. A. (2014). Self and friend’s differing views of social anxiety disorder’s effects on friendships. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 715-724.

Social anxiety disorder is known to be associated with self-report of global friendship quality. However, information about specific friendships, as well as information beyond self-report, is lacking. Such information is crucial, because known biases in information processing related to social anxiety disorder render global self-ratings particularly difficult to interpret. We examined these issues focusing on diagnosed participants (n = 77) compared with community control participants (n = 63). We examined self-report regarding global (i.e., overall) friendship quality and a specific friendship's quality; in addition, we examined friend-report of that friendship's quality. Results suggested that social anxiety disorder has a negative impact on self-perception of friendship quality for a specific friendship, but that this effect is less evident as reported by the friends. Specifically, social anxiety disorder was associated with a tendency to report worse friendship quality in comparison to friend-report, particularly in participants who were younger or had less long-lasting friendships. However, friend-report did show clear differences based on diagnostic group, with friends reporting participants with social anxiety disorder to be less dominant in the friendship and less well-adjusted. Overall, the findings are consistent with results of other studies indicating that social anxiety disorder has a strong association with self-ratings of impairment, but that these ratings appear out of proportion with the report of observers (in this case, friends).

Rodebaugh, T. L., Shumaker, E. A., Levinson, C. A., Fernandez, K. F., Langer, J. K., Lim, M. H., & Yarkoni, T. (2013). Interpersonal impairment conferred by generalized social anxiety disorder is evident on a behavioral economic task. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 39-44.

Abstract: Although social anxiety disorder appears to confer interpersonal impairment in friendships, evidence beyond self-report is minimal. We used the flexible iterated prisoner’s dilemma as a simulated interaction with a friend to determine whether generalized social anxiety disorder conferred constrained behavior characterized by low warmth (coldness), nonassertiveness, and reduced responsiveness. Participants included 27 individuals with the generalized type of social anxiety disorder and 24 demographically equivalent individuals without social anxiety disorder. All participants completed multiple rounds of the flexible iterated prisoner’s dilemma while imagining they were playing with a friend. We tested whether generalized social anxiety disorder was associated with more constrained behavior during the task: specifically, with decreased warmth, assertiveness, and responsiveness. We also tested whether such constraint was better explained by depression, as well as whether self-reported levels of coldness and nonassertiveness carried the indirect effects of diagnosis on giving during the task. Results indicated that hypotheses regarding coldness and responsiveness were supported: Participants with generalized social anxiety disorder were less giving on the task and their behavior was not as responsive to the computer’s behavior. Lower giving and responsiveness were not better explained by depression, but lower giving was mediated by interpersonal problems due to excessive coldness. Hypotheses regarding nonassertiveness were less supported. The connection between generalized social anxiety disorder and friendship impairment appears likely to be partially explained by interpersonal constraint that is perceived by others as coldness.

Rodebaugh, T.L., Gianoli, M.O., Turkheimer, E., & Oltmanns, T.F. (2010). The interpersonal problems of the socially avoidant: Self and peer shared variance. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119(2), 331-340.

Abstract: We demonstrate a means of conservatively combining self and peer data regarding personality pathology and interpersonal behavior through structural equation modeling, focusing on avoidant personality disorder traits as well as those of two comparison personality disorders (dependent and narcissistic). Assessment of the relationship between personality disorder traits and interpersonal problems based on either self or peer data alone would result in counterintuitive findings regarding avoidant personality disorder. In contrast, analysis of the variance shared between self and peer leads to results that are more in keeping with hypothetical relationships between avoidant traits and interpersonal problems. Similar results were found for both dependent personality disorder traits and narcissistic personality disorder traits, exceeding our expectations for this method. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

Rodebaugh, T.L. (2009). Social phobia and perceived friendship quality. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23 (7), 872-878.

Abstract: Although it is clear that people with social phobia have interpersonal impairment, evidence that social phobia (as opposed to other mental disorders) affects friendship in particular is lacking. Two large epidemiological datasets were used to test whether diagnosis of social phobia is related to perceived friendship quality above and beyond perceived family relationship quality, diagnosis of other mental disorders, and a variety of demographic variables. After Bonferroni correction, social phobia was the only diagnosis related to perceived friendship quality above and beyond other factors, such that people with social phobia reported more impaired friendship quality. Social phobia's effect was similar in magnitude to demographic characteristics in both samples. The current study demonstrates that social phobia is specifically related to perceived friendship quality, suggesting that this aspect of social phobia's effects is worthy of further study.

Rodebaugh, T.L., Heimberg, R.G., Jakatdar, T.A., & Rosenberg, A. (2009). Thinking about social situations: The moderated effects of imposing structure. Behavior Research and Therapy, 47, 158-163.

Abstract: Previous research indicates that people with social anxiety disorder tend to experience escalating distress when thinking about past social situations. We investigated whether such distress could be limited by either an intervention or the participant's pre-existing abilities. Participants were 38 undergraduate students who reported problematic levels of social anxiety. Participants who endorsed a poor ability to purposefully engage with thoughts about stressful social situations reported a deterioration of mood after 25 min of unstructured writing about a recent problematic social situation, whereas those who demonstrated low levels of purposeful engagement but received writing prompts (based on cognitive restructuring techniques) did not show a strong deterioration of mood. In contrast, participants who endorsed greater purposeful engagement ability did not show much deterioration. Results suggest that the negative effects of thinking about social situations might be ameliorated, for at least some participants, if they are provided with structure.

Rodebaugh, T. L. (2009). Hiding the self and social anxiety: The Core Extrusion Schema measure. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 33, 90-109.

Abstract: Multiple sources of evidence suggest that problematic social anxiety should be related to attempts to hide aspects of the self from others, but no specific measures are available to assess this phenomenon. A self-report measure, the Core Extrusion Schema measure (CES) was developed to measure aspects of self-concealment that should be related to social anxiety, including perceived present rejection, belief that one’s true self would be socially rejected, attempts to hide one’s true self, and attempts to avoid scrutiny. In two studies with undergraduates (n = 383 and 79), the CES was found to have good psychometric properties and relate to social anxiety as predicted. Some evidence of relation to interpersonal dysfunction above and beyond social anxiety was also observed. The CES therefore offers one avenue to assess a potential core cognitive component of impairing social anxiety, as well as the interpersonal effects of such anxiety.

Rodebaugh, T. L., & Heimberg, R. G. (2008). Measurement of ambivalent versus engagement after aversive social experiences. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 693-706.

Abstract: We describe two ways that participants may react to their internal experiences subsequent to stressful interpersonal interactions: Ambivalent engagement, consisting of attempts to avoid or dismiss the experiences arising from memories of the situation, and purposeful engagement, consisting of effortful attempts to approach the memories and internal experiences associated with the event. In a series of studies employing undergraduate samples, we evaluate a self-report method of measuring these trait-like constructs. The measure shows promising psychometric properties, including adequate to good factorial validity, good internal consistency, good test–retest reliability, and strong convergent and discriminant validity across a variety of theoretically related measures. This method of measuring ambivalent and purposeful engagement should be useful in investigating whether these constructs are related to the development of such disorders as social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as whether purposeful engagement is related to therapeutic change.

Rodebaugh, T. L. (2007). The effects of different types of goal pursuit on experience and performance during a stressful social task. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 951-963.

Abstract: Researchers have recently suggested that anxiety research may benefit from the examination of motivational factors, such as the difference between approach and avoidance goals. This suggestion is consistent with the literature on self regulation, which indicates that affect serves as feedback for goal pursuit, with anxiety primarily providing feedback regarding avoidance. However, no data are available on participant goals for a task that generates social anxiety. Data from 120 speech anxious participants who engaged in a public speaking task were used to test the following hypotheses: (1) avoidance goals would be more specific than approach goals; (2) goals regarding social anxiety would have a negative impact on public speaking experience and performance; and (3) participants would tend to organize approach and avoidance goals not as separate goals, but as opposite poles of the same overarching goal. Hypotheses (1) and (3) were fully supported and hypothesis (2) was partially supported. The results highlight the possibility that approach goals may be particularly important to anxiety reduction.

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