Effects of Social Exclusion on Cardiovascular and Affective Reactivity to a Socially Evaluative Stressor
Socially disconnected individuals have worse health than those who feel socially connected. The mechanisms through which social disconnection influences physiological and psychological outcomes warrant study. The current study tested whether experimental manipulations of social exclusion, relative to inclusion, influenced subsequent cardiovascular (CV) and affective reactivity to socially evaluative stress.
Young adults (N = 81) were assigned through block randomization to experience either social exclusion or inclusion, using a standardized computer-based task (Cyberball). Immediately after exposure to Cyberball, participants either underwent a socially evaluative stressor or an active control task, based on block randomization. Physiological activity (systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR)) and state anxiety were assessed throughout the experiment.
Excluded participants evidenced a significant increase in cardiovascular and affective responses to a socially evaluative stressor. Included participants who underwent the stressor evidenced similar increases in anxiety, but systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate did not change significantly in response to the stressor.
Results contribute to the understanding of physiological consequences of social exclusion. Further investigation is needed to test whether social inclusion can buffer CV stress reactivity, which would carry implications for how positive social factors may protect against the harmful effects of stress.
KeywordsSocial exclusion Stress reactivity Cyberball Blood pressure TSST
We are grateful to Norma Rodriguez and Anne Blackstock-Bernstein for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript as well as to Andy Lin for providing statistical consultation. We are also thankful to Taylor Kawakami and Jennifer Burleigh for their assistance with data collection. Timothy J. Williamson acknowledges support from a National Institute of Mental Health Predoctoral Research Fellowship (MH 15750). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. There are no other financial disclosures.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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