Aspects of interpersonal sensitivity relate differentially to subclinical social phobia and autistic traits

Seyed Mohammad Mahdi Moshirian Farahi, Shamim Razaghi Kashani, Elena Gallitto, Craig Leth-Steensen


Background: Social and communication difficulties are a symptom of both social phobia and autism. One form of trait dimension that is extremely relevant to such difficulties is interpersonal sensitivity.

Method: The differential relations that subclinical social phobia and autistic traits have with five facets of interpersonal sensitivity (interpersonal awareness, separation anxiety, timidity, fragile inner self, and need for approval) were studied. The sample consisted of N = 362 undergraduate participants who responded to a survey containing measures of autistic traits, social phobia, interpersonal sensitivity, and the big-five personality traits.

Results: The level of an individual’s social phobia was uniquely related to interpersonal awareness, separation anxiety, fragile inner self, and need for approval. Autistic trait level in terms of attention to details was uniquely related to interpersonal awareness (negatively). Autistic trait level in terms of social- and communication-based difficulties was uniquely related to both fragile inner self and need for approval. Interestingly, different sets of items within those two interpersonal sensitivity subscales were related to social phobia and autistic traits, respectively.

Conclusion: The statistical results presented here reveal important conceptual distinctions in the manner in which interpersonal sensitivity is present across individual differences in social phobia and autistic traits.


Interpersonal sensitivity; Social phobia; Autistic traits; Autism-spectrum quotient; Multiple regression.

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