Characterization of Reward Sensitivity, Positive Affect and Working Memory in Socially Anxious Young Adults

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a debilitating disorder marked by persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations that is associated with poor daily functioning in various areas of life. Most empirically-supported interventions for SAD are based on cognitive behavioral models that focus largely on reducing negative emotions. However, these approaches produce only modest rates of remission, suggesting that core components of SAD may not be sufficiently targeted by current treatments. Recent theoretical models have suggested that diminished sensitivity to reward may be a specific factor related to low positive affect (PA) and by extension social anxiety, yet no research has systematically examined this relationship. Additionally, working memory has been found to activate dopamine synthesis related to reward, however this relation has not been demonstrated in social anxiety. Accordingly, research proposed here sought to characterize PA and working memory, and determine whether reward sensitivity is altered in a self-reported socially anxious sample of 59 young adults. We hypothesized that social anxiety symptomatology would be inversely correlated with the magnitude of reward sensitivity as measured using the Reward Bias Task (RBT). Results within the full sample did not support our hypothesis; however, an unexpected relationship between PA and working memory emerged. Once using conservative data quality procedures, results indicated that the online version of the reward bias task demonstrated promising relationships with depression and working memory. Additionally, after controlling for depression, the restricted sample demonstrated a relationship between reward bias mean and working memory, and SPIN and diminished PA.



social anxiety, reward sensitivity, positive affect, working memory