Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An examination of the social self preservation model and the physiological resonance of social stress
by White, Christina Noel, M.S., Saint Louis University, 2013, 88; 1541150
Abstract (Summary)

The social self preservation model posits that threats to the social self result in a unique and coordinated psychobiological response that evolved due to its adaptive benefits. Stressors that threaten the social self elicit feelings of shame and other negative self-conscious emotions, as well as increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. The current study sought to test this model by exposing individuals to an acute stressor, and determining if they exhibit the emotional, physiological, and behavioral components proposed by the self preservation model. In addition, the physiological and emotional reactions of an observing participant were assessed to determine if they too exhibited a physiological and emotional reaction to observing an individual under social stress. Results supported the social self preservation model in that participants undergoing the acute stressor task exhibited significantly greater cortisol response and self-reported personal distress, as compared to observing participants. The social self preservation model was also extended by the current findings in that participant submissive nonverbal behavior, particularly gaze aversion, was related to their physiological response. Observing participants exhibited a significant salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) response, demonstrating the physiological effects of observing an individual experiencing social stress. In addition, observing participants with greater trait empathy levels exhibited significantly greater physiological reactivity as well as self-reported personal distress. These findings suggest that nonverbal behavior may be a mechanism of physiological resonance of stress.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Buchanan, Tony W.
Commitee: Kellogg, Ronald T., Willoughby, Lisa M.
School: Saint Louis University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: MAI 52/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Psychobiology, Behavioral psychology, Experimental psychology
Keywords: Empathy, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, Nonverbal behavior, Salivary alpha-amylase, Shame, Social stress
Publication Number: 1541150
ISBN: 9781303233715
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