Blushing and Physiological Arousability in Social Phobia

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Blushing and Physiological Arousability in Social Phobia

This paper will provide a critique of the article titled "Blushing and Physiological Arousability in Social Phobia," (Gerlach et al., 2001) located in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (Vol. 110, No. 2). Blushing is defined as: "to become red in the face especially from shame or embarrassment. " It is believed that blushing involves physiological, behavioral, and cognitive factors which react with one another. The actual cause of one blushing is physiological; the amount of blood in one's face increases causing the amplification of a red hue in the blush region. The blush region is defined to be the face, forehead, ears, neck, and sometimes the upper part of the chest. The DSM-IV defines social phobia as marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur. Since blushing occurs when one is embarrassed, the researchers hoped to find a link between blushing and the reasons of in social phobic persons.

The researches hypothesized that persons with social phobia who complain of blushing would show more blushing as opposed to those who are social phobic without complaints of blushing or the controls. The researches came to this hypothesis because it is believed that if one is aware of their uncontrollable blushing, they have an increased awareness cognitively towards their blushing problem. In turn, one may exaggerate the amount of blushing they are experiencing which in turn will increase the actual physiological process heightening the blush level. Also, because the relation between heart rate and phobic anxiety exists, it was also hypothesized there would be a difference in heart rate between the subgroups. The researchers believe that heart rate reliably shows the amount of phobic anxiety one is enduring. Therefore, it is believed that the participants who complain of blushing will also have a higher heart rate compared to the other two subgroups.

The study consisted of 44 participants (54% female, 46% male). The mean age of the participants of all three subgroups was 39.9 years of age. The mean years of education among the participants were 16.23 years. The participants all originated within Silicon Valley and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. All were highly educated and economically sound. The DMS-IV was used to determine the diagnosis and place the participants in the subgroups to which they fit best. All the interviews were audio taped, and an independent rater for accuracy evaluated fifteen of them. The reliability from the rater was excellent, providing a reliability coefficient of 1.00. The participants were also interviewed on whether blushing has ever been a problem for them or if it has ever affected an aspect in their lives at all. If they answered yes to any of those questions, they were placed within the subgroup of persons with previous complaint of blushing. Another interview was conducted to determine which of the participants would be categorized as possessing generalized social phobia. All of the participants, aside from the control group, were asked questions relating to anxiety and distress. The interviewer was to determine whether their anxiety and distress levels met a moderate level based on situations within the AIDS-IV questionnaire. The interviewer then made a decision in regard to their possible diagnosis of generalized social phobia. Twenty-two of the 30 experimental participants were diagnosed with generalized social phobia.

One the first day of actual testing, participants were attached with electrodes and sensors to record physiological factors. A baseline recording was created for each participant. They then sang a song, either "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" or "This Old Man", alone in a room. The participants were provided with a text of the song to reduce embarrassment during...
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