Evolutionary Perspective on Social Anxiety

Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, Iris Shachar, Liat Helpman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Two evolutionarily designed systems govern the way we navigate the vagaries of the social world: the affiliation biobehavioral system and the social rank biobehavioral system. We suggest that social anxiety is characterized by (1) a thin-skinned disposition to matters of social rank; (2) a propensity to respond to social rank changes by lowering one’s social profile and (3) an enhanced coupling of the affiliation and the social rank systems. We review a diverse set of findings suggesting that social rank sensitivity, reactivity, and coupling are evident in the perception and expression of emotional signals, impression formation, self-presentations in virtual social networks, reactions to changes in social rank (subjective, hormonal), and reactions to changes in belongingness. We argue that the evolutionary conceptual framework is uniquely positioned to seamlessly integrate findings from diverse disciplines and to inform and direct empirical research on social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Anxiety
Subtitle of host publicationClinical, Developmental, and Social Perspectives
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780123944276
ISBN (Print)9780123978196
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Affiliation
  • Belongingness
  • Biobehavioral systems
  • Dominance
  • Emotions
  • Hormones
  • Internet
  • Social rank


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