Observable differences between approving versus disapproving couples' interactions among high and low anxiety sensitive women

Date of Completion

January 1998


Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Psychobiology|Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Social|Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical




Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is associated with heightened risk for the development of panic disorder and agoraphobia (Allen & Sheckley, 1992; Reiss, 1991), as well as a precursor to a number of interpersonal difficulties (Chambless & Goldstein, 1981) resulting in others feeling irritated with and acting negatively toward anxiety sufferers. Benton and Allen (1996) gathered data from self-report with high and low AS participants in a naturalistic role-playing situation within a true experimental paradigm. In that investigation women were high AS or low AS and had either relaxed or hyperventilated prior to the conflict-oriented role-play. The men had been instructed to behave in an approving or disapproving manner. The interactions were rated for nonverbal only and then including verbal communication behaviors. ^ The present study compares perceptions of these interactions by trained observers with the perceptions reported by participants in Benton and Allen's experiment. Four judges were trained to rate their perceptions of volunteer couples in two conflict-oriented vignettes on videotape. When their rating skills met commonly accepted reliability criteria, the judges then rated videotaped interactions of actual couple participants from Benton and Allen's study who had role-played the same vignettes. ^ The primary finding of this study was that observers could accurately differentiate the boyfriends' approving versus disapproving behaviors, providing evidence that the boyfriends had manipulated their behaviors in accordance with experimental instructions. Overall, there was no pattern of significant main effects for Anxiety Sensitivity, the Breathing manipulation and no significant interactions between these variables. Analysis of convergent validity coefficients, however, suggested that high AS women in conflict situations manifested significantly less congruence between their subjective feelings and their observable actions. ^