Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Stephen B. Hillman, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to examine the cognition and self-presentation of early to middle aged adolescent girls who were self-conscious and shy, and explore the possible qualitative differences in cognition and self-presentation between shy/self-conscious girls, self-conscious/nonshy girls, and nonshy/nonself-conscious girls in a variety of social risk situations. Buss’s theory that self-conscious individuals are more psychologically vulnerable to high social risk situations than those who are not self-conscious was tested by examining the differences in cognition and self-presentation between adolescent girls who were self-conscious and labeled themselves as shy versus those who were just self-conscious during exposure to high social risk situations. The way in which different situational contexts effect early to middle aged, female adolescents’ cognition and self-presentation was also investigated. A 3 X 3 factorial design was implemented. Two hundred and thirty-six girls’ (M age = 15) dispositions were categorized as either publicly self-conscious/nonshy, publicly self-conscious plus shy/socially anxious, or nonpublicly self-conscious-nonshy. There were three types of social risk situations/conditions (evaluative, novel, and neutral) that were presented through hypothetical scenarios. Participants experiences one of the three social risk conditions. Self-statements, social self-efficacy, and presentational style were assessed. Results indicate that when exposed to a variety of social risk situations, girls who were publicly self-conscious and labeled themselves as shy exhibited significantly more negative self-statements, fewer positive self-statements, and more of a protective style of presentation than girls who were just publicly self-conscious or girls who were not publicly self-conscious or shy. No such differences were found between girls who were publicly self-conscious but not shy and girls who were neither self-conscious or shy. No differences were found between the three dispositional groups in self-efficacy. In high risk social situations, publicly self-conscious/shy girls exhibited significantly more negative self-talk and less positive self-talk than publicly self-conscious/nonshy girls. Though high social risk situations were found to significantly negatively effect adolescent girls’ global social self-efficacy, only evaluative situations significantly effected negative and positive thinking. Girls exposed to novel situations reported significantly more of an inclination to behave self-protectively than those exposed to evaluative situations. Findings suggest that there was a qualitative difference in cognition between girls who were just publicly self-conscious and those who were publicly self-conscious and made stable attributions regarding their self-conscious feelings. Girls who were publicly self-conscious and shy exhibited a more dysfunctional cognitive and presentational pattern. Findings also reveal that female self-consciousness during early-mid adolescence is a normative developmental phase that is not necessarily reflective of dysfunctional cognition and behavior or “psychopathology”. Findings contradict Buss’s theory that publicly self-conscious individuals are more sensitive to situations involving novelty or scrutiny. Results also suggest that adolescent girls experience evaluative situations as cognitively distressing, but they are behaviorally more vulnerable (behave self-protectively) to novel and neutral situations.