Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Lester W. Wright, Jr.

Second Advisor

Dr. C. Richard Spates

Third Advisor

Dr. Amy Naugle

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Helle Augustesen


This study was designed to examine the effectiveness of a semester-long public speaking course in reducing the self-reported levels of communication anxiety and social anxiety among college students enrolled in such a course. The current study also sought to replicate and extend a recent line of research that has demonstrated that highly socially anxious individuals show an attentional bias away from emotional faces under conditions of social-evaluative threat. The current study extended this line of research by conducting the same reaction time procedure with participants in a pretest/post-test design. The project was designed to determine if groups (rating high vs. low on a selfreport measure of social anxiety at the beginning of the semester) significantly differ from one another with respect to a reaction time/modified dot probe task. Participants were asked to complete the pencil and paper measures of anxiety and the modified dot probe task at the beginning of the semester and again at the end of the semester. Pretest and posttest scores on the self-report measures and the reaction time task were analyzed to determine if any significant change occurred for either of high anxiety or low anxiety participants. Finally, differences between groups from pretest to posttest on these measures were examined. One-way repeated measures ANOVAs examining the pretest and posttest scores on the Fear of Negative Evaluations Scale (FNE) indicated that the high anxiety group showed a statistically significant reduction in self-reported anxiety. Additionally, a significant positive correlation was identified for all participants at pretest between scores on the FNE and reaction time bias scores on the modified dot probe task for faces expressing negative emotions. Finally, a series of Mann-Whitney U and repeated measures t-tests were conducted to identify any significant changes within groups and between groups from pretest to posttest on the FNE and the reaction time-modified dot probe task. These results and the directions for future research are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access