Article

Social-Evaluative Threat and Proinflammatory Cytokine Regulation: An Experimental Laboratory Investigation

Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, 92697-7085, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 09/2009; 20(10):1237-44. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02437.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

This study experimentally tested whether a stressor characterized by social-evaluative threat (SET), a context in which the self can be judged negatively by others, would elicit increases in proinflammatory cytokine activity and alter the regulation of this response. This hypothesis was derived in part from research on immunological responses to social threat in nonhuman animals. Healthy female participants were assigned to perform a speech and a math task in the presence or absence of an evaluative audience (SET or non-SET, respectively). As hypothesized, stimulated production of the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) increased from baseline to poststressor in the SET condition, but was unchanged in the non-SET condition. Further, the increases in TNF-alpha production correlated with participants' cognitive appraisals of being evaluated. Additionally, the ability of glucocorticoids to shut down the inflammatory response was decreased in the SET condition. These findings underscore the importance of social evaluation as a threat capable of eliciting proinflammatory cytokine activity and altering its regulation.

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    • "We aimed to collect data from roughly 60 participants, with 30 participants in each condition, which would fall within the norm of studies examining the effects of acute stressors on inflammatory reactivity (e.g., Dickerson et al., 2009; John-Henderson, Rheinschmidt, Mendoza- Denton, & Francis, 2013). Participants were 19.34 years old on average (range = 18–23, SD = 1.25). "
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    ABSTRACT: Low socioeconomic status (SES) during childhood confers risk for adverse health in adulthood. Accumulating evidence suggests that this may be due, in part, to the association between lower childhood SES and higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Drawing from literature showing that low childhood SES predicts exaggerated physiological reactivity to stressors and that lower SES is associated with a more communal, socially attuned orientation, we hypothesized that inflammatory reactivity would be more greatly affected by cues of social support among individuals whose childhood SES was low than among those whose childhood SES was high. In two studies, we found that individuals with lower subjective childhood SES exhibited greater reductions in pro-inflammatory cytokine reactivity to a stressor in the presence of a supportive figure (relative to conditions with an unsupportive or neutral figure). These effects were independent of current SES. This work helps illuminate SES-based differences in inflammatory reactivity to stressors, particularly among individuals whose childhood SES was low. © The Author(s) 2015.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Psychological Science
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    • "Prior research (e.g., Dickerson, Gable, Irwin, Aziz, & Kemeny, 2009; Murali, Hanson, & Chen, 2007) suggests shifts in inflammatory cytokine levels in response to situational stressors (e.g., taking an exam). While IL-6 in particular can exert both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects (Scheller, Chalaris, Schmidt-Arras, & Rose-John, 2011), prior research characterizes increases in IL-6 specifically in response to a stressor as signaling an inflammatory response (Dickerson et al., 2009; John-Henderson, Rheinschmidt, Mendoza-Denton, & Francis, 2014; Slavich, Way, Eisenberger, & Taylor, 2010). In this research, we assessed changes in IL-6 in oral mucosal transudate (OMT). "
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    ABSTRACT: This research independently manipulated two potential attenuators of stereotype threat – reappraisal of anxiety and test framing – to explore their independent and combined effects. Female participants took a difficult math exam that was described as gender-biased or gender-fair and were told that anxious arousal could positively impact performance or were given no information regarding arousal. Levels of the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6), an immune marker of inflammation, were measured in oral mucosal transudate (OMT) both before and after the exam. Our findings indicate that directing reappraisal of physiological arousal attenuated increases in IL-6 across test framing conditions, and was especially effective under stereotype threat (i.e., gender-biased test condition). Reappraisal also mapped onto better test performance in the threat condition. Together, these findings provide insight into the unique and interactive effects of two situational interventions meant to reduce stereotype threat, indexed here by both physiological and performance-based correlates of threat.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
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    • "Prior research (e.g., Dickerson, Gable, Irwin, Aziz, & Kemeny, 2009; Murali, Hanson, & Chen, 2007) suggests shifts in inflammatory cytokine levels in response to situational stressors (e.g., taking an exam). While IL-6 in particular can exert both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects (Scheller, Chalaris, Schmidt-Arras, & Rose-John, 2011), prior research characterizes increases in IL-6 specifically in response to a stressor as signaling an inflammatory response (Dickerson et al., 2009; John-Henderson, Rheinschmidt, Mendoza-Denton, & Francis, 2014; Slavich, Way, Eisenberger, & Taylor, 2010). In this research, we assessed changes in IL-6 in oral mucosal transudate (OMT). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This research independently manipulated two potential attenuators of stereotype threat – reappraisal of anxiety and test framing – to explore their independent and combined effects. Female participants took a difficult math exam that was described as gender-biased or gender-fair and were told that anxious arousal could positively impact performance or were given no information regarding arousal. Levels of the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6), an immune marker of inflammation, were measured in oral mucosal transudate (OMT) both before and after the exam. Our findings indicate that directing reappraisal of physiological arousal attenuated increases in IL-6 across test framing conditions, and was especially effective under stereotype threat (i.e., gender-biased test condition). Reappraisal also mapped onto better test performance in the threat condition. Together, these findings provide insight into the unique and interactive effects of two situational interventions meant to reduce stereotype threat, indexed here by both physiological and performance-based correlates of threat.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
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