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The social dimension of stress reactivity: acute stress increases prosocial behavior in humans


von Dawans, B; Fischbacher, U; Kirschbaum, C; Fehr, Ernst; Heinrichs, M (2012). The social dimension of stress reactivity: acute stress increases prosocial behavior in humans. Psychological Science, 23(6):651-660.

Abstract

Psychosocial stress precipitates a wide spectrum of diseases with major public-health significance.The fight-or-flight response is generally regarded as the prototypic human stress response, bothphysiologically and behaviorally. Given that having positive social interactions before beingexposed to acute stress plays a preeminent role in helping individuals control their stressresponse, engaging in prosocial behavior in response to stress (tend-and-befriend) might also be aprotective pattern. Little is known, however, about the immediate social responses followingstress in humans. Here we show that participants who experienced acute social stress, induced bya standardized laboratory stressor, engaged in substantially more prosocial behavior (trust,trustworthiness, and sharing) compared with participants in a control condition, who did notexperience socioevaluative threat. These effects were highly specific: Stress did not affect thereadiness to exhibit antisocial behavior or to bear nonsocial risks. These results show that stresstriggers social approach behavior, which operates as a potent stress-buffering strategy in humans,thereby providing evidence for the tend-and-befriend hypothesis.

Abstract

Psychosocial stress precipitates a wide spectrum of diseases with major public-health significance.The fight-or-flight response is generally regarded as the prototypic human stress response, bothphysiologically and behaviorally. Given that having positive social interactions before beingexposed to acute stress plays a preeminent role in helping individuals control their stressresponse, engaging in prosocial behavior in response to stress (tend-and-befriend) might also be aprotective pattern. Little is known, however, about the immediate social responses followingstress in humans. Here we show that participants who experienced acute social stress, induced bya standardized laboratory stressor, engaged in substantially more prosocial behavior (trust,trustworthiness, and sharing) compared with participants in a control condition, who did notexperience socioevaluative threat. These effects were highly specific: Stress did not affect thereadiness to exhibit antisocial behavior or to bear nonsocial risks. These results show that stresstriggers social approach behavior, which operates as a potent stress-buffering strategy in humans,thereby providing evidence for the tend-and-befriend hypothesis.

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41 citations in Web of Science®
42 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:17 Sep 2012 14:11
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:57
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0956-7976
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611431576
PubMed ID:22593119
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:7251

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