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Psychobiological Responses to Social Self Threat: Functional or Detrimental?

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A growing body of research suggests that threats to the social self, or threats to one's social esteem, acceptance, or status, can elicit a coordinated response, including increases in self-conscious emotion, cortisol, and proinflammatory cytokine activity. These psychobiological changes may have important benefits under certain acute contexts, including providing a signaling function for detecting social threat, initiating biological processes to adequately respond to the threat, and supporting behavioral patterns of submission or disengagement, which may be adaptive in this context. However, prolonged or chronic experiences of social self threat could have damaging mental and physical health consequences; situational and individual characteristics may render some more vulnerable to these negative effects.
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Keywords: Cortisol; Psychoneuroimmunology; Self-conscious emotion; Social-evaluative threat; Stress

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Irvine, California, USA 2: University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA 3: University of California, San Francisco, California, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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