Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Santo


Threats to humans’ deep-rooted social needs are associated with strong physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses that are linked to systems for physical pain responses. Yet, prior research has also revealed inconsistencies in responses to social threats, which may be related to differences in situational or dispositional factors. In exploration of these potential explanations, the proposed research aims to investigate physiological, subjective, and behavioral responses to two distinct types of social threat experiences. This study will involve analyzing data collected from a sample of 127 students at a midwestern state university who participated in a laboratory experiment in which they faced one of two types of social rejection or acceptance experiences: the Cyberball paradigm (Williams, Yeager, Cheung, & Choi, 2012) or the “Future Life” paradigm (Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke, 2001). Participants were also provided an opportunity to engage with another (supposed) individual to identify prosocial and antisocial response patterns. Participants’ fear of negative social evaluation was assessed as an individual difference factor; current levels of affect, basic needs satisfaction, and cortisol responses were tracked during the procedures. Results indicate interrelated physiological, affective, and subjective responses to social rejection and acceptance, which vary as a function of both situational and dispositional factors, and are consistent with evolutionary theories of human’s social nature. Theoretical, developmental, and practical implications are discussed.


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