Social anxiety is associated with personal distress and disrupted recognition of negative emotions

Jacob Israelashvili, Corine Dijk, Agneta H. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past research investigating the relation between social anxiety (SA), empathy and emotion recognition is marked by conceptual and methodological issues. In the present study, we aim to overcome these limitations by examining whether individuals with high (n = 40) vs. low (n = 43) social anxiety differed across these two facets of empathy and whether this could be related to their recognition of emotions. We employed a naturalistic emotion recognition paradigm in which participants watched short videos of individuals (targets) sharing authentic emotional experiences. After each video, we measured self-reported empathic concern and distress, as well as their ability to recognize the emotions expressed by the targets in the videos. Our results show that individuals with high social anxiety recognized the targets’ emotions less accurately. Furthermore, high socially anxious individuals reported more personal distress than low socially anxious individuals, whereas no significant difference was found for empathic concern. The findings suggest that reduced recognition of emotions among SA individuals can be better explained by the negative effects of social stress than by a general deficit in empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24587
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2024 The Authors


  • Emotion recognition
  • Emotional accuracy
  • Empathic concern
  • Personal distress
  • Social anxiety


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