The effects of threatened social evaluation of the physique on cortisol activity

Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, Heather A. Strong, Shawn M. Arent, Steven R. Bray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Social self preservation theory asserts that situations high in social-evaluative threat elicit increases in cortisol, a hormone released by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Most tests of the theory have examined threats associated with social evaluation of a performance. Two experiments examined the effects of threatened social evaluation of one's physique. In Experiments 1 (n = 50) and 2 (n = 40), participants allocated to an experimental (threat) condition had significantly higher post-manipulation cortisol than participants in a control (no threat) condition. In Experiment 1, perceptions of social-evaluative threat were significantly correlated with post-manipulation cortisol levels. These results suggest that the threatened social evaluation of one's body can activate the cortisol response. Women who frequently experience such threats may be at increased risk for a variety of health conditions associated with chronic cortisol exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)990-1007
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • HPA axis
  • body image
  • social physique anxiety
  • stress


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