Date of Award

Spring 6-1-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Thane M. Erickson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Jacob A. Bentley, Ph.D.

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Thomas P. Carpenter, Ph.D.


Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms often struggle with heightened sensitivity and arousal in response to perceived threats. Moreover, interpersonal dysfunction in GAD has become increasingly a focus of empirical investigation and treatment, given the possibility that responses to social interactions may contribute to GAD symptom maintenance. Laboratory studies and cross-sectional trait assessments of interpersonal problems comprise most of our understanding of interpersonal dysfunction in GAD. However, how GAD symptoms interact with perceived interpersonal threats to predict affective responses (increased arousal, lower valence) within daily life remains poorly understood. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to examine effects of in vivo social perceptions on state affect, and how GAD symptoms may moderate those relationships. Participants (N = 161) completed baseline measures of trait GAD and depression symptoms (as a covariate). Then participants completed 30 social interaction surveys over the subsequent 10 days. In each survey, participants rated interaction partners’ dominant, cold, and immoral behavior (each conceptualized as interpersonal threats) as well as their own arousal and valence in response to the behavior. Multilevel modeling analyses of between- and within-person effects revealed that mean perceptions of cold and immoral behavior predicted higher arousal and lower valence as hypothesized, whereas mean perceived dominance unexpectedly predicted only lower valence. All within-person fluctuations in social perceptions predicted both higher arousal and lower valence. Regarding the moderating effects, GAD symptoms unexpectedly buffered the effect of average perceived cold behavior on valence and strengthened the effect of average perceived immoral behavior on valence. These results provide a deeper understanding of how social perceptions may contribute to affect in naturalistic interactions, and add to the literature on interpersonal correlates of GAD symptoms.