Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNE)

Questionnaires can be used to assess social anxiety.
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The Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNE) is a 30-item, self-rated scale used to measure social anxiety. The FNE was developed by David Watson and Ronald Friend and described in an article published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1969. The FNE is used widely still and has been translated and validated in other languages.

Because experts recommend that all women and girls over aged 13 should be screened for anxiety disorders as part of routine health care, the FNE is one type of screening that you might encounter during a visit to your doctor. Such screenings can be helpful for detecting and treating anxiety early, which is important since anxiety can become worse over time if left untreated.

How the FNE Is Administered

Each item on the FNE is a statement about some aspect of social anxiety. When completing the FNE, you must decide whether each statement is true or false for you personally.

If the choice is difficult, you are asked to choose the answer that is slightly more applicable based on how you feel at the moment. You are also asked to answer based on your first reaction and not spend too long on any item.

Below are some sample true or false statements from the FNE:

  • "I rarely worry about seeming foolish to others."
  • "I worry about what people will think of me even when I know it doesn’t make any difference."
  • "I become tense and jittery if I know someone is sizing me up."

Information Provided by the FNE

A total score on the FNE is obtained based on your answers to the true/false questions. Below are the suggested interpretations.

  • Low scorers (0–12): Low scorers are typically relaxed in social situations.
  • Average scorers (13–20): People who score in this range may be fearful in some social or evaluative situations.
  • High scorers (21–30): High scorers are generally apprehensive about what other people think of them.

As with any self-report instrument, scores on the FNE need to be interpreted by a mental health professional and followed up with a full diagnostic interview for social anxiety disorder (SAD) when warranted.

Accuracy 

Scores on the FNE correlate significantly with measures of anxiety, depression, and general distress in people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). This means that the instrument is used for both clinicians and researchers as a way of screening for SAD and also for tracking the change in social anxiety symptoms over time.

The Brief Version of the FNE

A brief version of the FNE was devised by Leary (1983) to measure the same construct as the full instrument. The brief FNE items are as follows:

  1. I worry about what other people will think of me even when I know it doesn't make any difference.
  2. I am unconcerned even if I know people are forming an unfavorable impression of me.
  3. I am frequently afraid of other people noticing my shortcomings.
  4. I rarely worry about what kind of impression I am making on someone.
  5. I am afraid others will not approve of me.
  6. I am afraid that people will find fault with me.
  7. Other people's opinions of me do not bother me.
  8. When I am talking to someone, I worry about what they may be thinking about me.
  9. I am usually worried about what kind of impression I make.
  10. If I know someone is judging me, it has little effect on me.
  11. Sometimes I think I am too concerned about what other people think of me.
  12. I often worry that I will say or do the wrong things.

The brief scale has been shown to have excellent inter-item reliability and two-week test-retest reliability. This means that the items of the scale all measure the same concept and that scores on the test are stable over time.

A Word From Verywell

A scale such as the FNE is only useful as a screening device. If you feel your symptoms are severe and interfering with your daily life, seek advice from your doctor or a mental health professional to see whether you meet the criteria for a diagnosis of SAD and if the treatment might be helpful for your situation.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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  1. Carleton R, Collimore K, Mccabe R, Antony M. Addressing revisions to the Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation scale: Measuring fear of negative evaluation across anxiety and mood disorders. J Anxiety Disord. 2011;25(6):822-8. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.04.002

  2. Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580

  3. Harpole J, Levinson C, Woods C, et al. Assessing the straightforwardly-worded brief fear of negative evaluation scale for differential item functioning across gender and ethnicity. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2015;37(2):306-317. doi:10.1007/s10862-014-9455-9

  4. Society of Clinical Psychology. Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Updated September 9, 2014.

  5. Van der Nolen M, Poppelaars E, Van Hartingsveldt C, Harrewijn A, Moor B, Westenberg P. Fear of negative evaluation modulates electrocortical and behavioral responses when anticipating social evaluative feedback. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7:936. doi:10.3389%2Ffnhum.2013.00936

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