Tomova, L., von Dawans, B., Heinrichs, M., Silani, G. & Lamm, C. (2014). Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology,43 95-104. United Kingdom: Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.02.006
Stress is a ubiquitous challenge in society as we consistently interact with others under the influence of stress. Distinguishing self- from other-related mental representations plays an important role for social interactions, and is a prerequisite for crucial social skills such as action understanding, empathy, and mentalizing. Little is known, however, about the effects of stress on self-other distinction. We assessed how acute stress impacts self-other distinction in the perceptual-motor, the affective, and the cognitive domain, in a male and female sample. In all domains, the results show opposing effects of stress on the two genders: while women showed increases in self-other distinction, men showed decreases. Our findings suggest that women flexibly disambiguate self and other under stress, enabling accurate social responses, while men respond with increased egocentricity and less adaptive regulation. This has crucial implications for explaining gender differences in social skills such as empathy and prosociality.
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