Adversity is a pervasive feature of human life, often contributing to poor physical and mental health outcomes. While social support can buffer against the negative consequences associated with stressful life events,
the conditions under which people seek to establish potentially protective social ties with others in times of distress require greater attention. In a classic study of affiliation, Schachter (1959) provided evidence that women exposed to laboratory stressors had an increased desire for being together. While evolutionary theory broadly predicts that women will seek to form beneficial relationships in stressful environments, when faced with acute threat, men may also benefit from affiliation in the form of coalitions. In the current study, following an adaptation of Schachter’s (1959) experiment, participants (N = 72; 59.7% female; Mage = 19.56 yrs; 74.6% White) were randomized into a
high-anxiety or low-anxiety group. Logistic regression analyses showed that both men and women in the high-anxiety condition were significantly more likely to desire affiliation than those in the low-stress condition and that participants experiencing anxiety were significantly more likely to desire affiliation than those without anxiety. This study replicates and extends Schachter’s (1959) findings, providing evidence that both men and women prefer to affiliate under conditions of acute stress, specifically within the context of physical threat.
Declaration of conflicts of interestThe authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Lead author countryUnited States
Lead author job roleHigher Education Researcher
Lead author institutionThe Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
Ethics statementAll research approved by onsite Institutional Review Board (IRB).