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Acute social and physical stress interact to influence social behavior: the role of social anxiety

  • Stress is proven to have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Due to different tasks and study designs, the direct consequences of acute stress have been found to be wide-reaching: while some studies report prosocial effects, others report increases in antisocial behavior, still others report no effect. To control for specific effects of different stressors and to consider the role of social anxiety in stress-related social behavior, we investigated the effects of social versus physical stress on behavior in male participants possessing different levels of social anxiety. In a randomized, controlled two by two design we investigated the impact of social and physical stress on behavior in healthy young men. We found significant influences on various subjective increases in stress by physical and social stress, but no interaction effect. Cortisol was significantly increased by physical stress, and the heart rate was modulated by physical and social stress as well as their combination. Social anxiety modulated the subjective stress response but not the cortisol or heart rate response. With respect to behavior, our results show that social and physical stress interacted to modulate trust, trustworthiness, and sharing. While social stress and physical stress alone reduced prosocial behavior, a combination of the two stressor modalities could restore prosociality. Social stress alone reduced nonsocial risk behavior regardless of physical stress. Social anxiety was associated with higher subjective stress responses and higher levels of trust. As a consequence, future studies will need to investigate further various stressors and clarify their effects on social behavior in health and social anxiety disorders.

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Author:Bernadette von DawansORCiD, Amalie Trüg, Clemens Kirschbaum, Urs Fischbacher, Markus Heinrichs
Parent Title (English):PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Place of publication:San Francisco
Editor:Alexandra Kavushansky
Document Type:Article
Date of completion:2018/12/11
Date of publication:2018/10/25
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Contributing corporation:The publication was funded by the Open Access Fund of Universität Trier and the German Research Foundation (DFG)
Release Date:2018/12/11
Tag:Cortisol; Heart rate; Prosocial behavior; Psychological stress; Social anxiety disorder; Thermal stresses; post-traumatic stress disorder
GND Keyword:Interaktion; Mann; Sozialangst; Sozialer Stress; Sozialverhalten; Stress
Volume (for the year ...):13
Number of pages:21
Source:PLoS ONE 13 (2018)
Institutes:Fachbereich 1 / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoCC BY: Creative-Commons-Lizenz 4.0 International

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