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Anxiety Stress Coping. 2019 Jan;32(1):67-81. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2018.1530349. Epub 2018 Oct 9.

Social anxiety and employment interviews: does nonverbal feedback differentially predict cortisol and performance?

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a Department of Psychology , Northern Illinois University , DeKalb , IL , USA.



Interviewers often provide positive nonverbal feedback to reduce interviewees' anxiety. Socially anxious individuals typically harbor negative self-views discrepant with positive feedback. We examined whether nonverbal feedback and social anxiety jointly influence cortisol responses to, and performance during, interviews.


An experimental between-subjects design randomly assigned participants to feedback condition.


Undergraduate students (Nā€‰=ā€‰130) provided saliva and completed social anxiety, interview anxiety, and affective measures before a simulated interview. Following a standardized script, a confederate interviewer provided positive, ambiguous, or negative nonverbal feedback. Participants then provided saliva and completed self-focused attention and self-awareness measures. Confederate interviewers and an external rater evaluated participants' anxiety displays, assertive behavior, and performance.


Positive feedback decreased cortisol and improved performance for low social anxiety participants. Socially anxious participants exhibited higher cortisol but did not exhibit significant differences in performance after positive compared to negative feedback.


Consistent with previous findings, positive feedback did not benefit socially anxious interviewees. Positive feedback increased physiological arousal relative to negative feedback but did not hinder performance among people high in social anxiety. These results provide novel information about the interactive influence of social anxiety and nonverbal interviewer feedback on arousal, self-focus, and interview performance.


Social anxiety; cortisol; interview anxiety; interviews; self-verification

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