Publication Date



The dominant characterization of the physiological and behavioral human stress reaction is the fight-or-flight response. On the other hand, it has been suggested that social affiliation during stressful times (“tend-and-befriend”) also represents a common adaptive response to stress, particularly for women. In the current study, we investigate the extent to which men may also show affiliative responses following acute stress. In addition, we examine a potential neuroendocrine modulator of the hypothesized affiliative response. Eighty male students (forty dyads) were recruited to undergo either the Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G) or a non-stressful control situation. Subsequently, participants completed a dyadic interaction task and were then asked to report their feelings of psychological closeness to their interaction partner. Although participants assigned to the stress condition did not differ overall on psychological closeness from participants assigned to the control condition, participants with high cortisol responses to the stressor showed significantly higher ratings of psychological closeness to their interaction partner than participants with low cortisol responses. Our findings suggest that men may form closer temporary bonds following stressful situations that are accompanied by a significant cortisol response. We suggest that the traditional characterization of the male stress response in terms of “fight-or-flight” may be incomplete, and that social affiliation may in fact represent a common, adaptive response to stress in men.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.