Social phobia as a response to perceived threats to social status : an investigation or Trower and Gilbert's psychobiological model of social anxiety.
This study sought to test hypotheses derived from Trower & Gilbert's (1989)
psychobiological/ethological model of social anxiety. The model proposes that social
anxiety represents a response to perceived threats to social status, and is associated with
shame and submissive behaviour. The study used a correlational design with a group of
individuals meeting diagnostic criteria for social phobia (N= 37) and a group of nonanxious
participants (N= 37). Participants were assessedo n social comparisonsr elevant
to social status, shame, and submissive behaviour through the use of questionnaires
administered at one time point.
The results provided partial support for the Trower & Gilbert (1989) model. Those
with social phobia made more unfavourable social comparisons than non-anxious
participants on two of the three social comparison dimensions: social attractiveness and
group fit. The groups did not differ on the dimension of social rank. Socially phobic
participants reported higher levels of shame and submissive behaviour than non-anxious
participants. In addition, the social comparison dimensions of social attractiveness and
group fit, shame, and submissive behaviour correlated with a self-report measure of social
The results suggest that while the Trower & Gilbert (1989) model may provide
important insights into our understanding of social anxiety, its focus on perceived threats
to social status may be insufficient in understanding the complex factors involved in
maintaining social fears. Furthermore, the results obtained suggest that social phobia may
be related to other perceived threats to the social self, such as threats to social inclusion.
Implications for social anxiety theory and treatment are discussed.