Physiological stress responses to the 2008 U.S. presidential election: The role of policy preferences and social dominance orientation

Sophie Trawalter*, Vicki S. Chung, Amy S. DeSantis, Clarissa D. Simon, Emma K. Adam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examines physiological stress responses to the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The week before and after Election Day, participants provided three daily saliva samples, assayed for cortisol (a principal "stress hormone") and testosterone. Results revealed that, on Election Day, all participants on average and Republicans in particular exhibited stunted cortisol and testosterone rhythms, perhaps reflecting participants' anticipation. After Election Day, participants' political affiliation was not a strong predictor of physiological responses. Their social dominance orientation-that is, their tolerance of social inequalities-was predictive of responses. Those higher in social dominance orientation had higher cortisol and testosterone morning values. These changes suggest that individuals higher in social dominance orientation were distressed but ready to fight back. The present findings add to an emerging body of work showing that sociopolitical differences can influence biological systems relevant to health and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-345
Number of pages13
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012

Keywords

  • Intergroup anxiety
  • Physiological stress
  • Political psychology
  • Social dominance orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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