Socially oriented thinking and the biological stress response: Thinking of friends and family predicts trajectories of salivary cortisol decline

Vera Vine, Lori M. Hilt, Brett Marroquín, Kirsten E. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The cortisol stress response has been related to perceived social support, but previous studies rely on self-reported social support variables. The cortisol recovery phase in particular has been theorized to serve a social coping function, but individual differences in recovery slope have not yet been examined in relation to social coping-relevant indices. This study addressed these gaps by examining the relationship of cortisol trajectories after a socioevaluative task to individual differences in covertly assessed cognitions related to close social relationships. We examined trajectories of cortisol change related to socially oriented thinking, the semi-implicit activation of cognitive representations of friends or family. Young adults (N = 64) gave salivary cortisol samples before and for 45 min after a speech task. Participants' thoughts were sampled repeatedly; the frequency of words related to friends or family was assessed to index socially oriented thinking. A free curve slope intercept latent growth curve model showed excellent fit with the cortisol data. Socially oriented thinking was unrelated to overall magnitude of cortisol response to the task (latent intercept) but predicted the latent cortisol trajectory, independently of cortisol intercept and baseline cortisol levels. Socially oriented thinkers showed more gradual cortisol declines, whereas nonsocially oriented thinkers showed a steeper downslope driven primarily by cortisol changes 45 min after the task. Individual differences in socially oriented thinking may manifest in different rates of biological changes following a performance task.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13461
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume56
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Keywords

  • cortisol
  • cortisol recovery
  • free curve slope intercept
  • social support
  • socially oriented thinking

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