Cultural differences in perceived social norms and social anxiety

N. Heinrichs*, R.M. Rapee, L.A. Alden, S.M. Bögels, S.G. Hofmann, K.J. Oh, Y. Sakano

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cultural considerations in social anxiety are a rarely investigated topic although it seems likely that differences between countries in social norms may relate to the extent of social anxiety. The present study investigated individuals' personal and perceived cultural norms and their relation to social anxiety and fear of blushing. A total of 909 participants from eight countries completed vignettes describing social situations and evaluated the social acceptability of the behavior of the main actor both from their own, personal perspective as well as from a cultural viewpoint. Personal and cultural norms showed somewhat different patterns in comparison between types of countries (individualistic/collectivistic). According to reported cultural norms, collectivistic countries were more accepting toward socially reticent and withdrawn behaviors than was the case in individualistic countries. In contrast, there was no difference between individualistic and collectivistic countries on individuals' personal perspectives regarding socially withdrawn behavior. Collectivistic countries also reported greater levels of social anxiety and more fear of blushing than individualistic countries. Significant positive relations occurred between the extent to which attention-avoiding behaviors are accepted in a culture and the level of social anxiety or fear of blushing symptoms. These results provide initial evidence that social anxiety may be related to different cultural norms across countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-97
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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