An experimental study examined whether Asian-Americans and white Americans would show differential patterns of reporting depressive and social anxiety symptoms depending on the method of reporting (written questionnaire versus face-to-face interview) (Okazaki, 2000). The results showed that Asian-Americans reported higher levels of social anxiety than white Americans in both interview and written conditions. The findings suggested that the method of reporting does not differentially affect Asian-Americans; there are persistent ethnic differences between Asian-Americans and white Americans in the types and levels of distress they report.
Another methodological criticism that has been leveled against the use of symptom questionnaires is that they are single-occasion global measures. Studies have shown that there are more cultural variations in global reports of well-being than in momentary reports, with white Americans tending to present a rosier global picture of themselves than Asians and Asian-Americans (Oishi, 2002).
To address this concern, a study of social anxiety with Asian-Americans and white Americans was conducted using experience sampling methods, which gather multiple momentary reports of anxiety in the natural environments of the respondents over an extended period of time (M.R. Lee, B.A., and S. Okazaki, Ph.D., unpublished data, August 2002). Results from a two-week, event-contingent diary study suggested that Asian-Americans reported higher intensity, but not greater frequency, of social anxiety than white Americans. However, the types of social contexts (e.g., ethnicity, gender and number of people in the social setting) did not differentially impact the intensity of distress across ethnicity. The results of these studies suggested that Asian-white differences in social anxiety symptom reports are not driven by differential responses to interpersonal contexts in either experimental or natural settings.
An unresolved question surrounding higher reports of distress by Asian-Americans is whether the self-reported social anxiety also manifests in dysfunctional behavior. Studies comparing Asian-Americans and white Americans on behavioral aspects of social anxiety have not found ethnic differences.
For example, when asked to role-play (with either an Asian or white experimenter) 13 hypothetical situations that require assertive responding, the same Chinese-American men who had reported higher social anxiety on trait measures demonstrated just as much assertiveness as white American men in their verbal behavior (Sue et al., 1983). The ethnicity of the experimenter did not affect levels of assertive responding. These results were replicated with Chinese-American and white American women (Sue et al., 1990). In another study, Zane et al. (1991) showed that Asian-Americans and white Americans did not differ in the assertiveness of their responses to hypothetical scenarios that concerned acquaintances or significant people in their lives. However, Asian-Americans reported that they expected to feel anxious and guilty after assertive responding to a greater extent than did white Americans.
In a laboratory-based experiment, Okazaki et al. (2002) examined whether differences between Asian-Americans and white Americans on self-report of social anxiety extend to observed behavior and reports of anxiety-related emotions during a brief social performance task. Asian-American and white American participants completed a social phobia questionnaire and rated their distress while anticipating the task and immediately following the task. Trained evaluators rated their videotaped behavior using behavioral codes. Results indicated that Asian-Americans reported more social anxiety than white Americans not just on the global measure of social anxiety but also during the experiment. However, Asian-Americans and white Americans did not differ substantially on behavioral indices of anxiety, as rated by trained observers. Moreover, the self-report and behavioral measures of social anxiety converged moderately for white Americans but not among Asian-Americans.