Community structure analysis of rejection sensitive personality profiles: A common neural response to social evaluative threat?

Academic Article


  • © 2018, The Author(s). Monitoring social threat is essential for maintaining healthy social relationships, and recent studies suggest a neural alarm system that governs our response to social rejection. Frontal-midline theta (4–8 Hz) oscillatory power might act as a neural correlate of this system by being sensitive to unexpected social rejection. Here, we examined whether frontal-midline theta is modulated by individual differences in personality constructs sensitive to social disconnection. In addition, we examined the sensitivity of feedback-related brain potentials (i.e., the feedback-related negativity and P3) to social feedback. Sixty-five undergraduate female participants (mean age = 19.69 years) participated in the Social Judgment Paradigm, a fictitious peer-evaluation task in which participants provided expectancies about being liked/disliked by peer strangers. Thereafter, they received feedback signaling social acceptance/rejection. A community structure analysis was employed to delineate personality profiles in our data. Results provided evidence of two subgroups: one group scored high on attachment-related anxiety and fear of negative evaluation, whereas the other group scored high on attachment-related avoidance and low on fear of negative evaluation. In both groups, unexpected rejection feedback yielded a significant increase in theta power. The feedback-related negativity was sensitive to unexpected feedback, regardless of valence, and was largest for unexpected rejection feedback. The feedback-related P3 was significantly enhanced in response to expected social acceptance feedback. Together, these findings confirm the sensitivity of frontal midline theta oscillations to the processing of social threat, and suggest that this alleged neural alarm system behaves similarly in individuals that differ in personality constructs relevant to social evaluation.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kortink ED; Weeda WD; Crowley MJ; Gunther Moor B; van der Molen MJW
  • Start Page

  • 581
  • End Page

  • 595
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 3