Justin W. Weeks, Ph.D.
249 Porter Hall
Athens, OH 45701
Intervention Design and Outcome Evaluation
My area of specialty is anxiety disorders in adults, with a special interest in social anxiety disorder. My primary goals thus far as a researcher in clinical psychology have been to broaden and refine both the assessment and the theoretical conceptualization of social anxiety. I believe that these ends are mutually inclusive, in that the enhanced assessment of a construct inherently allows for an advanced level of understanding of that construct, and vice versa.
Fear of Positive Evaluation
Cognitive-behavioral models have suggested that fear of negative evaluation is the core feature of social anxiety disorder (Clark & Wells, 1995; Rapee & Heimberg, 1997). However, my research has focused on a novel cognitive component of social anxiety: Fear of Positive Evaluation (FPE). This concept posits that individuals perceiving themselves as low on a status hierarchy of desirable attributes will fear making upward shifts on the hierarchy because of potential reprisal from individuals of higher status. My colleagues and I developed and validated a self-report measure, the Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale (FPES), to assess this construct. FPE exhibits strong relationships with social anxiety symptoms in both undergraduate and clinical samples, and lesser relationships with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Importantly, confirmatory factor analyses have indicated that FPE is distinct from, albeit strongly related to, fear of negative evaluation. In addition, FPE (but not fear of negative evaluation) predicts emotional and cognitive responses to receipt of positive social feedback.
Clinical research at the Center for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety (CETA) will involve evaluating the role of FPE in predicting treatment outcome and drop-out rates for social anxiety disorder patients receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In addition, treatment outcome studies will be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of a novel standardized CBT protocol for social anxiety disorder which systematically addresses fears of both positive and negative evaluation, and the success of this program will be compared to that of contemporary protocols which systematically focus exclusively on fear of negative evaluation.
Role of Behavioral Submissiveness in Social Anxiety Disorder
My research has also focused on the behavioral assessment of social anxiety disorder. One recent study tested a model conceptualizing social anxiety disorder as an affective-behavioral syndrome which is triggered in contexts in which individuals perceive themselves as relatively low in a status hierarchy of desirable attributes, leading to the triggering of submissive gestures (predicted on the basis of animal findings) as an adaptation response to social threat (agonistic displays). Findings indicated that males exhibit two such submissive displays as a function of social anxiety, body collapse (i.e., slumped, closed posture) and elevated vocal pitch peaks, when placed in a semi-structured social role-play of a competitive nature. Body collapse was assessed utilizing a laser-targeted stature meter which I conceived and designed for use in this study; and vocal pitch peaks were measured utilizing specialized vocal pitch analysis equipment, which had not been previously applied to the study of social anxiety. Our findings highlight novel behavioral markers which could serve as diagnostic indicators of social anxiety disorder. My research will continue to focus on the behavioral assessment of social anxiety in general, as well as specifically on body collapse and vocal pitch peak elevations as social anxiety-related submissive gestures.
Gaze Avoidance and Social Anxiety
In line with my interest in the role of behavioral submissiveness in social anxiety, we are currently conducting studies at CETA focusing on gaze avoidance, a putative social anxiety-related submissive gesture. More specifically, we are utilizing infrared computerized eye-tracking equipment to examine relationships between fears of positive and negative evaluation and eye gaze tendencies exhibited in response to various social challenge tasks. Findings from these studies will extend and elaborate on previous work involving gaze avoidance and social anxiety.
Pathophysiology of Social Anxiety Disorder
Another major area of research interest is the pathophysiology of social anxiety disorder. We are currently conducting studies at CETA examining the relationships between trait fears of positive and negative evaluation, state anxiety ratings, and physiological responses (e.g., heart rate, respiration, skin temperature) obtained during various social challenge tasks. Findings from these studies will inform existing psychophysiological profiles of social anxiety disorder.
Ph.D. (2008) Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Weeks, J. W., Rodebaugh, T. L., Heimberg, R. G., Norton, P. J., & Jakatdar, T.A. (in press). “To avoid evaluation, withdraw”: Fears of evaluation and depressive cognitions lead to social anxiety and submissive withdrawal. Cognitive Therapy and Research.
Weeks, J. W., Norton, P. J., & Heimberg, R.G. (in press). Exploring the latent structure of two cognitive components of social anxiety: Taxometric analyses of fears of negative and positive evaluation. Depression and Anxiety.
Weeks, J. W., Heimberg, R. G., Norton, P. J., & Rodebaugh, T. L. (2008). Exploring the relationship between fear of positive evaluation and social anxiety. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 386-400.
Weeks, J. W., Heimberg, R. G., & Rodebaugh, T.L. (2008). The Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale (FPES): Assessing a proposed cognitive component of social anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 44-55.
Weeks, J. W., Spokas, M. E., & Heimberg, R. G. (2007). Psychometric evaluation of the Mini-Social Phobia Inventory (Mini-SPIN) in a treatment-seeking sample. Depression and Anxiety, 24, 382-391.
Weeks, J. W., & Heimberg, R. G. (2005). Evaluation of the psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) in a non-elderly adult sample of patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 22, 41-44.
Weeks, J. W., Heimberg, R. G., Fresco, D. M., Hart, T. A., Turk, C. L., Schneier, F. R., & Liebowitz, M. R. (2005). Empirical validation and psychometric evaluation of the Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale in patients with social anxiety disorder. Psychological Assessment, 17, 179-190.
Norton, P. J., Hope, D. A., & Weeks, J. W. (2004). Social anxiety and athletic behavior: Development and psychometric analysis of the Physical Activity and Social Anxiety Scale (PASAS). Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 17, 363-382.
Hambrick, J., Weeks, J. W., Harb, G. H., & Heimberg, R. G. (2003). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder: Supporting evidence and future directions. CNS Spectrums, 8, 373-381.
Empirically-Supported Treatments (Individual Psychotherapy)