Emotional and Physiological Responses to Social-Evaluative Threat



Social-evaluative threat has been theorized to elicit coordinated psychological and physiological responses, including increases in self-conscious emotions as well as increases in cortisol and proinflammatory cytokine activity. Acute laboratory stressors with social-evaluative threat have triggered robust increases in cortisol, whereas equivalent laboratory stressors without this explicit social-evaluative component have not elicited changes in this physiological parameter. Participants who have reported the greatest increases in self-conscious emotions have also shown the greatest increases in cortisol activity, suggesting that these physiological changes may occur in concert with self-conscious states. Other work has shown that social-evaluative threat and accompanying self-conscious emotions can influence immune parameters associated with inflammation. These findings have implications for a number of areas of research within social and personality psychology.