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 scale is used widely still and has been translated and validated in other languages such as Hungarian.

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 questions from the FNE.

  1. I rarely worry about seeming foolish to others.
  2. I worry about what people will think of me even when I know it doesn’t make any difference.
  3. 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.

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.

  • 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.

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 (and included in a pdf here):

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 with 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 (α = .97) and two-week test-retest reliability (r = .94). 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 criteria for a diagnosis of SAD and if the treatment might be helpful for your situation.

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View Article Sources
  • Leary, M. R. (1983). A brief version of the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9, 371-376.
  • Perczel-Forintos D, Kresznerits S. [Social anxiety and self-esteem: Hungarian validation of the “Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale - Straightforward Items”]. Orv Hetil. 2017;158(22):843-850. 
  • Watson D, Friend R. Measurement of social-evaluative anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1969:33;448-457.