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J Psychol. 2019 Mar 26:1-16. doi: 10.1080/00223980.2019.1581723. [Epub ahead of print]

Personality Trait Interactions in Risk for and Protection against Social Anxiety Symptoms.

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1
a SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Abstract

Previous attempts to identify personality traits that enhance inclination to social anxiety (SA) have been limited by a tendency to focus on selected traits in isolation, rather than examining their interactions. Additional research is needed to better understand whether and how these dimensions are linked to SA. In a prospective study, it was examined how interactions between the Big Five personality factors predict SA symptoms. A total of 135 individuals, aged 18-50 years, were recruited. Personality traits were measured at baseline, and SA symptoms were assessed one month later. Results showed that low emotional stability was an independent predictor of higher levels of SA. Additionally, two significant interactions emerged: the interactions between extraversion and openness, and between openness and agreeableness predicted SA symptoms. At high openness, higher extraversion was associated with significantly lower levels of SA, suggesting that the interaction provides incrementally greater protection against SA. Thus, extraverts are likely to be protected against social anxiety symptoms, but more so the more open they are. Moreover, at high levels of agreeableness, low openness has been shown to be uniquely predictive for higher levels of SA symptoms, indicating that the combined effect of openness with agreeableness may be more important to SA than either trait in isolation. These findings highlight the importance of testing interaction effects of personality traits on psychopathology.

KEYWORDS:

Social anxiety disorder; five factor model; personality; social phobia

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