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      The Trier Social Stress Test as a paradigm to study how people respond to threat in social interactions


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          In our lives, we face countless situations in which we are observed and evaluated by our social interaction partners. Social-evaluative threat is frequently associated with strong neurophysiological stress reactions, in particular, an increase in cortisol levels. Yet, social variables do not only cause stress, but they can also buffer the neurophysiological stress response. Furthermore, social variables can themselves be affected by the threat or the threat-induced neurophysiological stress response. In order to study this complex interplay of social-evaluative threat, social processes and neurophysiological stress responses, a paradigm is needed that (a) reliably induces high levels of social-evaluative threat and (b) is extremely adaptable to the needs of the researcher. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is a well-established paradigm in biopsychology that induces social-evaluative threat in the laboratory by subjecting participants to a mock job-interview. In this review, we aim at demonstrating the potential of the TSST for studying the complex interplay of social-evaluative threat, social processes and neurophysiological stress responses.

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          Salivary cortisol as a biomarker in stress research.

          Salivary cortisol is frequently used as a biomarker of psychological stress. However, psychobiological mechanisms, which trigger the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) can only indirectly be assessed by salivary cortisol measures. The different instances that control HPAA reactivity (hippocampus, hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals) and their respective modulators, receptors, or binding proteins, may all affect salivary cortisol measures. Thus, a linear relationship with measures of plasma ACTH and cortisol in blood or urine does not necessarily exist. This is particularly true under response conditions. The present paper addresses several psychological and biological variables, which may account for such dissociations, and aims to help researchers to rate the validity and psychobiological significance of salivary cortisol as an HPAA biomarker of stress in their experiments.
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            The relationship between social support and physiological processes: a review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health.

            In this review, the authors examine the evidence linking social support to physiological processes and characterize the potential mechanisms responsible for these covariations. A review of 81 studies revealed that social support was reliably related to beneficial effects on aspects of the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems. An analysis of potential mechanisms underlying these associations revealed that (a) potential health-related behaviors do not appear to be responsible for these associations; (b) stress-buffering effects operate in some studies; (c) familial sources of support may be important; and (d) emotional support appears to be at least 1 important dimension of social support. Recommendations and directions for future research include the importance of conceptualizing social support as a multidimensional construct, examination of potential mechanisms across levels of analyses, and attention to the physiological process of interest.
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              Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: II. Method variables and construct validity.

              The Implicit Association Test (IAT) assesses relative strengths of four associations involving two pairs of contrasted concepts (e.g., male-female and family-career). In four studies, analyses of data from 11 Web IATs, averaging 12,000 respondents per data set, supported the following conclusions: (a) sorting IAT trials into subsets does not yield conceptually distinct measures; (b) valid IAT measures can be produced using as few as two items to represent each concept; (c) there are conditions for which the administration order of IAT and self-report measures does not alter psychometric properties of either measure; and (d) a known extraneous effect of IAT task block order was sharply reduced by using extra practice trials. Together, these analyses provide additional construct validation for the IAT and suggest practical guidelines to users of the IAT.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                02 February 2015
                : 6
                : 14
                [1]Institute of Psychology, University of Hildesheim, Hildesheim Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: Eva Jonas, University of Salzburg, Austria

                Reviewed by: Bernadette von Dawans, University of Freiburg, Germany; Daan Scheepers, Leiden University, Netherlands

                *Correspondence: Johanna U. Frisch, Institute of Psychology, University of Hildesheim, Universitätsplatz 1, 31141 Hildesheim, Germany e-mail: frischjo@ 123456uni-hildesheim.de

                This article was submitted to Cognitive Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

                Copyright © 2015 Frisch, Häusser and Mojzisch.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 30 October 2015
                : 06 January 2015
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 94, Pages: 15, Words: 0
                Review Article

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                trier social stress test,social-evaluative threat,cortisol,social support,social cognition,social behavior


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