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Endocrine Correlates of Social Comparison in Couple Relationships


Campbell, Jana; Fiacco, Serena; Ditzen, Beate; Meuwly, Nathalie; Ehlert, Ulrike (2019). Endocrine Correlates of Social Comparison in Couple Relationships. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 5(2):187-210.

Abstract

Objectives: This study employed an experimental design that induced social comparison in couples by systematically varying performance feedback in a manipulated pretend IQ test.

Methods: Sixty-two heterosexual couples were randomly assigned to four experimental groups, in which either the man (1) or the woman (2) was provided with superior feedback and compared to couples which received equal feedback (3) or no feedback (4). The biopsychological responses were assessed using repeated measures of mood, levels of the gonadal hormones testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2), and the stress hormone cortisol (C) in both partners.

Results: Compared to the men, the entire female sample responded to the test with a decrease in T. Women who received superior feedback showed a unique endocrine profile, characterized by an immediate increase in E2 and a delayed decrease in T. In contrast to men, women’s mood decreased in all conditions except for the superior feedback.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that women may be physiologically and subjectively more strongly affected by comparison processes with their partners in the dimension of skills and achievement. Moreover, our findings are the first to show that in romantic relationships, the endocrine correlates of social comparison may include an intriguing interplay between the steroid hormones T and E2, but not C.

Abstract

Objectives: This study employed an experimental design that induced social comparison in couples by systematically varying performance feedback in a manipulated pretend IQ test.

Methods: Sixty-two heterosexual couples were randomly assigned to four experimental groups, in which either the man (1) or the woman (2) was provided with superior feedback and compared to couples which received equal feedback (3) or no feedback (4). The biopsychological responses were assessed using repeated measures of mood, levels of the gonadal hormones testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2), and the stress hormone cortisol (C) in both partners.

Results: Compared to the men, the entire female sample responded to the test with a decrease in T. Women who received superior feedback showed a unique endocrine profile, characterized by an immediate increase in E2 and a delayed decrease in T. In contrast to men, women’s mood decreased in all conditions except for the superior feedback.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that women may be physiologically and subjectively more strongly affected by comparison processes with their partners in the dimension of skills and achievement. Moreover, our findings are the first to show that in romantic relationships, the endocrine correlates of social comparison may include an intriguing interplay between the steroid hormones T and E2, but not C.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Physiology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Life Sciences > Behavioral Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:1 June 2019
Deposited On:13 May 2019 15:26
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 10:43
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:2198-7335
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-019-00112-5
Project Information:
  • : FunderStiftung für Wissenschaftliche Forschung at the University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title

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