The present study investigated the effects of strength of social network
on physiological stress during a cognitive task. Participants were randomly
assigned to a timed or untimed word search task. The dependent variables
were heart rate and participants' perceptions of the difficulty of their
word search task. Participants in the high stress condition reported
performing significantly worse on the word search task than those in
the low stress condition. Participants perceived the task to be less
difficult when in the high social network group as compared to the low
social network group. Although there were no significant findings for
the heart rate measure, there was an interesting pattern. For the high
stress condition, participants with a low social network had slightly
higher heart rates than participants with a high social network.
A low level of social network leads to poor mental and physical health
(Berkman & Glass, 2000). However, the specific ways that social
network affects health have been disputed. Investigators agree that
low amounts of social support lead to high rates of illness and fatality,
but differ in their views on the following inquiries:
What is stress and what are its causes?
What is the definition of a diverse social network?
What is the relationship between social network and health?
These three questions are the main focus in the review of literature
concerning social network and health.
What is stress and what are its causes?
Stress is a stimulus that causes sadness, low self-confidence, and
overall decreased health condition (Kanner, Feldman, Weinberger, &
Ford, 1987). Stress stimuli are considered to be events that interfere
with life. Lazarus and Cohen (1977) illustrated three main types of
stressors: major changes affecting large numbers of individuals, major
changes affecting one or more individuals, and daily hassles. Situations
thought to be out of one's control, such as natural disasters and acts
of terrorism, are examples of major changes affecting large numbers
of individuals. Examples of major changes affecting a few individuals
are the death of a parent, being laid off from work, divorce, or a life-threatening
illness. Lazarus and his research team defined daily hassles as minor
annoyances such as one's cat getting sick on the rug or having an argument
with a friend.
In addition to the different types of stressors, research has indicated
that there are differences between chronic and acute demands of a stressor
(Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Chronic demands are stressful events
that occur for a long period of time, such as a persistent cough. They
described acute demands as stressful events that occur in the present
moment or immediate past. Examples are moving and taking an exam in
school. In small amounts, acute demands can be exhilarating. However,
too much acute stress leads to exhaustion in the form of increased physical
and emotional stress levels (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Other differences
include the degree to which an individual believes he or she can predict
an event, as well as the degree of attraction or aversion one feels
toward an object or experience.
How we react to stressors is especially influenced by cognitive appraisal
(Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Cognitive appraisal is the process of
evaluating an event to determine whether it would facilitate one's well-being.
It is evaluative in that its focus is on meaning of the stressor. Appraisal
occurs continuously throughout life. There are two types of appraisal:
primary and secondary. Two types of primary appraisal are benign-positive
and stressful (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Benign-positive appraisals
occur if the outcomes of an experience are interpreted as positive,
that is, if one's interpretation of an experience aids in the maintenance
or enhancement of well-being. These appraisals are characterized by
emotions such as joy, excitement, love, happiness, or peacefulness.
However, completely benign-positive appraisals without some degree of
uneasiness are rare; individuals always consider the possibility that
something will go wrong, which in turn creates anxiety.
The second kind of appraisal, stress appraisal, generates even more
anxiety (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). During this second type of appraisal,
individuals assess the potential harm, loss, or threat of a stressor.
In harm or loss, some damage to the person has always been sustained.
The anticipation of an injury, as well as awareness that one's self-esteem
has been damaged, are examples of this type of appraisal. Experiences
in life which are most damaging are those in which central commitments
are lost, such as the loss of a loved one.
Threat involves harms or losses that have not yet taken place but are
anticipated (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Even when a harm/loss has
occurred, it is always fused with threat because every loss is also
laden with negative implications for the future. Threat can be positive,
as it may motivate an individual to cope with the anticipation one feels.
Threat appraisal illustrates that individuals can anticipate future
events. This allows them to work through some of their difficulties
in advance, such as anticipating grief that one will feel after experiencing
the loss of a loved one to a terminal disease (Lazarus & Folkman,
Secondary appraisal occurs when one is in danger and something must
be done to manage the situation (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Secondary
appraisal is an important component of every stressful encounter and
involves evaluating alternative approaches for stress management. An
example of a secondary appraisal would be asking oneself if riding a
horse is likely to lead to injury, as well as asking oneself whether
one has the available resources to cope. The authors suggest that secondary
and primary appraisals interact with each other in shaping the degree
of stress of the emotional reaction.
How one responds to stress may also be attributable to a concept known
as stress-reactivity (Cohen & Hamrick, 2003). Stress reactivity
is a stable physiological response to a stressor. It can lead to variability
in stress-induced susceptibility to developing a cold. Individuals who
showed a disposition toward greater cardiovascular response were considered
to be more likely to develop stressor-induced heart disease and hypertension
(Cohen & Hamrick, 2003).
Stress-reactivity to stressors is also characterized by hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal
axis activation (HPA) and greater sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (Cohen
& Hamrick, 2003). It is also associated with greater immune suppression.
The more stress reactors present when exposed to a stressor, the greater
the risk of developing an infectious illness. Individuals inclined to
respond to stressors with high levels of activation of SNS and HPA have
been shown to be at greater risk for illness when exposed to a stressor.
Specifically, they found that cardiovascular responses are indicators
of an individual's vulnerability to stressor-induced risk for contracting
an infectious disease. An example of a cardiovascular response is heart
rate. Because heart rate was found to be a stable measure in this past
research, it is the main dependent measure of the present study.
Stressors have also been evident in laboratory settings which are highly
generalizable to, and hence representative of, natural occurrences.
Feldman, Cohen, Hamrick, and Lepore (2004) found that the silent preparation
period preceding a stressor such as a public speaking task was sufficient
to elicit heightened cardiovascular response. Those in the stress condition
had increased cardiovascular responses during the preparation period.
Therefore, anticipation of a stressor elicits response.
Feldman et al. (2004) took into consideration the behavioral demands
of a public speaking task in the contribution to physiological response
of heart rate. This study provided evidence that stressor anticipation,
or perception of the upcoming stressor, was sufficient to elicit physiological
response that was comparable to or exceeded those typically observed
during the task itself. Specifically, increases in cardiovascular response
as an effect of preparing for a speech were found to be due to the physiological
reaction of negative emotions, which was a sign of the difficulty with
the task (Felman et al., 2004). Physiological response is not only affected
by various stressors but may be mediated by the presence or absence
of a diverse social network.
What is the definition of a diverse social network?
Individuals with a diverse social network have social support from
many outlets, as they are married, interact with family members, friends,
neighbors, fellow workers, and belong to social and religious groups
(Cohen, Doyle, Skoner, Rabin, & Gwaltney, 1997). The Social Network
Index (SNI; Cohen et al., 1997) is a measure that assesses participation
in twelve types of social relationships: spousal, parental, parents-in-law,
children, close family members, neighbors, friends, workmates, schoolmates,
volunteer groups, social/recreational/professional groups, and religious
groups. Based on the work of Cohen and his research team, a relationship
can be defined as an affiliation with another human being in which two
individuals speak on the phone or in person at least once every two
Social network has not always been easy to define, however. Cohen,
Mermelstein, Kamarck, and Hoberman (1985), who defined social network
as a resource of support that is provided by other individuals, indicated
that there are many social network measures. Therefore, it is difficult
to create one prototypical definition. For example, studies using measures
assessing the structure of social networks, such as "How many friends
do you have?" are seldom distinguished from those addressing the
functions that networks might serve, such as "Do you have someone
you can talk to about personal problems?" (Cohen et al., 1985,
p. 74). In fact, in many cases, structural and functional items are
positioned collectively into one support index, resulting in scores
that have little conceptual meaning.
In the framework of these restrictions, the researchers have developed
their own social support scale known as the Interpersonal Support Evaluation
List (ISEL; Cohen et al., 1985). This instrument created four categories
of support functions served by interpersonal relationships: tangible
support, appraisal support, self-esteem support, and belonging support.
Tangible support is instrumental aid and appraisal support is the availability
of someone to talk to about one's problems. Self-esteem support is the
availability of a positive comparison when comparing oneself with others
and belonging support is the availability of people with whom one can
do things. Increasing interest has been directed towards the role social
network plays in protecting individuals from the physiological effects
of stress (Cohen, Clark, & Sherrod, 1986).
What is the relationship between social network and health?
Cohen et al. (1985) developed the stress-buffering hypothesis, which
asserted that social support protects individuals from the physiological
effects of stress. The buffering effect of social support is cognitively
mediated which means that support functions by influencing one's appraisal
of stressful events (Cohen et al., 1986). Potentially stressful events
are perceived as less stressful when diverse social support influenced
perceived availability to cope. A measure of the perceived availability
of support is a valid indicator of its buffering effects because the
appraisal of stress is based on an individual's beliefs or perceptions
about available support as opposed to its actual availability.
An example of a measure assessing perceived stress was developed by
Cohen et al. (1986) who administered the Perceived Stress Scale, a fourteen-item
self-report measure designed to assess the degree to which life experiences
are appraised as stressful. Half of the statements indicated low stress
and the remaining half indicated high stress. On a five-point scale
ranging from 1 indicating "never" to 5 indicating "very
often," respondents indicated how often they have felt or thought,
during the previous month, in the way indicated by the statement. The
PSS included questions designed to investigate the degree to which respondents
found their lives to be unpredictable and uncontrollable and included
questions about current levels of physiological stress (Cohen et al.,
1986). Buffering effects of social support were found for the perceived
availability of support scale and for each of the subscales that represented
psychological forms of support but not for the tangible support subscale.
The poor performance of tangible support was due to the fact that it
was found that college students require little tangible aid. Cohen and
his research team found that appraisal, self-esteem, and belonging support
are, in general, more useful in coping with stressful experiences.
One way in which appraisal support, self-esteem support, and belonging
support have been used when encountered with a stressful event was illustrated
by Cohen et al. (1986). High levels of stress were positively associated
with physiological response under low levels of support but unassociated
under high levels of support. The stress-buffering effects of social
support were correlated with skills such as social competence (the ability
to cope with stressful events and sustain social support) and self-disclosure
(a form of appraisal support in which an individual has the perception
of availability that other people will talk to him/her about his/her
problems). Buffering effects were found for the perceived availability
of support scale and for each of the subscales that represent appraisal
support, self-esteem support and belonging support.
Past research has thus emphasized the physiological and perceived effects
of stress. Social network strength has been shown to moderate stress
as measured by cardiovascular response and perceived availability of
social support. Given this, the present study investigated the effects
of social network strength and stress level on heart rate and perceptions
of stress to an acute experimental stressor. Experimenters exposed participants
to timed and untimed word search puzzles while monitoring their heart
rate. Given that cardiovascular reactivity has been found to be a stable
marker of vulnerability to stressor-induced risk for infectious disease
(Cohen & Hamrick, 2003), our hypothesis was based on the stress-buffering
theory (Cohen et al., 1985) that the larger one's social network, the
lower his or her stress response. We hypothesized that for the high
stress condition, participants with a high social network would have
a lower heart rate than those with a low social network. We also hypothesized
that for the low stress condition, there would be no real differences
in heart rate between high and low social network groups.
Thirty-two students (seven men and twenty-five women) from a small
liberal arts school in northeastern Pennsylvania participated in the
experiment. The majority of the participants were freshman (N=
20). There were seven sophomores, four juniors, and one senior. In exchange
for their participation in the experiment, participants received credit
in their course.
A 2(Level of social network: high level of social network vs. low level
of social network) X 2 (Stress manipulation: timed vs. untimed puzzle)
between-subjects design was used. Participants were categorized as high
or low social network as created by a median split of scores in the
Social Network Survey (Cohen, Clark, & Sherrod, 1986). Scores greater
than or equal to 36 were categorized as high social network, whereas
those with a collective score of less than 36 were categorized as low
social network. The dependent variables were heart rate from baseline
and participants' perceptions of stress and the task.
a) Matching Task
The matching task was composed of nine pairs of matching objects.
One of the objects on the left side of the page was best associated
with one of two objects on the right side of the page. An example
of a matched pair of objects was a bat on the left side of the page
matched with a baseball on the right side of the page.
b) Word search task - Timed/High-Stress and Untimed/Low-Stress
The word searches consisted of the same difficult words with "-ing"
such as "amazingly," "appetizingly" and "amusingnesses."
Words can go horizontally, vertically and diagonally in all eight
directions. Words may also overlap and share one or more letters.
The timed, high-stress condition was given a six-minute time limit
to complete the word search. The experimenter sat in the room and
watched these participants complete the word search. In the untimed/low-stress
condition, participants had the same six-minute time limit but the
experimenter left the room for that duration of time.
c) Perceptions of Task Questionnaire
A Perceptions of Task questionnaire was then distributed to each
participant to evaluate the subjective difficulty of the word search
task, how well participants thought they did on the word search, how
stressful participants found the word search to be and to what extent
participants felt that they were under time pressure. Respondents
were asked to rate their responses to difficulty of the word search
task using a five-point scale, with 1 indicating "Very difficult"
and 5 indicative of "Very easy." Respondents were asked
to rate their responses to how stressful participants found the word
search to be using a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 indicating "Very
Stressful" and 5 indicative of "Not at all stressful."
Respondents were asked to rate their responses to what extent participants
felt that they were under time pressure using a scale from 1 to 5,
with 1 indicating "Not at all" and 5 indicative of "To
a great extent."
d) Social Network Survey
The social network survey was adapted from the college-version Interpersonal
Support Evaluation List developed by Cohen et al. (1985). The 48-item
survey was distributed to each participant. The survey assessed the
perceived availability of potential social resources. Half of the
items were positive statements about social relationships (e.g., "There
are several different people with whom I enjoy spending time")
and half were negative statements about social relationships (e.g.,
"I feel that there is no one with whom I can share my most private
worries and fears"). Participants were asked to indicate whether
each statement was "probably true" or "probably false"
about themselves. Items cover the realm of supportive social resources
that could potentially facilitate coping with stressful events. While
the original ISEL (Interpersonal Support Evaluation List) is divided
into the four types of appraisal support, in our experiment we computed
only one score for each participant.
A Biopac Student lab software MANBSL3S was used to measure heart rate
in beats per minute (bpm). Participants were attached to the device
through electrodes clipped to the right and left legs and right forearm
of each participant.
Participants were individually instructed that the psychology department
has recently received new equipment and we, as experimenters would like
to test this equipment on them. Each participant was then attached to
the Biopac. Two electrodes were placed on the inside of the right and
left legs just above the ankle bone. One electrode was placed on the
right anterior forearm just above the wrist.
Once each participant was seated and in a relaxed state, they were
instructed to breathe deeply while the machine calibrated their heart
rate. We calibrated the heart rate measure for ten seconds to establish
a stable baseline. Participants were then instructed to complete a matching
task, the purpose of which was to study gender differences in performance.
Once administered the matching task, the experimenter pressed record
to start recording heart rate. The matching task was composed of nine
pairs of matching objects. Participants were instructed to draw a line
between the object on the left that matched with the object on the right
(e.g., a baseball and a bat as compared to a baseball and a car).
Participants were then randomly assigned to either the timed or untimed
word search task and instructed to complete the respective task. A respiratory
transducer was used to mark the start of the word search task. During
the timed word search, participants were instructed that they would
have six minutes to complete the word search, to find as many words
as possible, that this task was being used as a gender comparison to
determine which gender performs more efficiently and that when the time
was up, they must stop. The instructor sat in the same room as participants
in the timed condition. An egg timer was used to measure the timed word
During the untimed word search, each participant was instructed to
complete the word search, to try to find as many words as he or she
could and to take his or her time in completing. The experimenter left
the room for the six-minute duration of the untimed task. After completing
one of the word search tasks, the investigator detached the Biopac device
from the participant and instructed him/her to complete a Perception
of Stress questionnaire. Afterwards, participants were asked to complete
a Social Network Survey. Participants were then debriefed, thanking
them for participating in the study, and asked if they had any questions.
Participants were then told the true purpose of the study.
An analysis of variance was conducted to determine if social network
strength and stress manipulation affected heart rate. There were no
significant main effects for social network strength (F (1, 28)
= 1.20, p = 0.28) or the stress manipulation (F (1, 28)
= 0.01, p = 0.93). There was also no interaction effect for heart
rate by social network strength and stress manipulation (F (1,
28) = 2.82, p = 0.10). Although there were no significant findings,
there was an interesting pattern. For the high stress manipulation,
participants with a high social network had slower heart rates than
participants in the low social network. However, in the low stress manipulation,
participants in the high social network had a higher heart rate than
participants in the low social network. Means and standard deviations
for heart rate by social network strength and stress manipulation can
be found in Table 1.
Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for Heart Rate Measure by Social
Network and Stress Manipulation
|Note: Heart rate measure in Beats per Minute
(BPM). Standard deviations in parentheses.
Perception of Stress and Task
Separate ANOVAs were computed for perception of stress and task. For
perception of stress, there were no significant main effects for social
network strength (F (1, 28) = 2.56, p = 0.12) or the stress
manipulation (F (1, 28) = 0.09, p = 0.76), nor was there
an interaction effect for perception of stress by social network strength
and stress manipulation (F (1, 28) = 1.26, p = 0.27).
Participants in the high stress condition perceived slightly more stress
across social network strength. Participants with high social networks
perceived less stress across stress manipulation.
A two-way between-subjects ANOVA revealed a significant main effect
of social network strength for difficulty of the word search task, F
(1, 28) = 6.41, p = .02. Participants perceived the task to be
less difficult when in the high social network group as compared to
the low social network group. Means and standard deviations for difficulty
of word search by social network strength and stress manipulation can
be found in Table 2.
Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for Difficulty of Word Search by
Social Network and Stress Manipulation
|Note: Mean scores based on a rating scale from
1 to 5, 1 indicating "Very difficult" and 5 indicating
"Very easy." Standard deviations in parentheses.
A two-way between-subjects ANOVA revealed a main effect of stress manipulation
for perception of performance on task, F (1, 28) = 4.25, p
= .05. Participants in the high stress condition reported performing
significantly worse on the word search task than those in the low stress
condition. Means and standard deviations for perception of performance
on task by social network strength and stress manipulation can be found
in Table 3.
Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for How Well Performed by Social
Network Strength and Stress Manipulation
|Note: Mean scores based on a rating scale from
1 to 5, 1 indicating "Excellent" and 5 indicating "Poor."
Standard deviations in parentheses.
In the present experiment, we tested the effect that social network
strength and stress manipulation had on an individual's heart rate.
No significant effects were found for our heart rate results. Data from
participants in the high-stress manipulation were consistent with our
predictions because mean patterns were in the right direction for low
social network; low social network participants had increased heart
rate in the high stress manipulation. However, data from low-stress
participants were not consistent with our predictions. In the low-stress
manipulation, high social network participants had a faster heart rate
(bpm) than low social network participants. One likely reason for the
heart rate results was that the stress manipulation was not strong enough.
The weak manipulation check was due to the fact that the perceived time
pressure manipulation check question did not appear to lead to great
stress. Another reason for the weakness of the stress manipulation was
that the perception of stress question had no significant main effects.
The time pressure manipulation check question, "To what extent
did you feel that you were under time pressure?" did not appear
to lead to great stress. In other words, no significant effects were
found. While low social network participants reported greater perceived
time pressure than high social network participants in the high-stress
manipulation, low social network participants perceived greater time
pressure than high social network participants in the low-stress condition.
The perception of stress question, "How stressful did you find
the word search to be?" also had no significant main effects. Participants
in the high stress condition perceived slightly more stress across social
network strength. Participants with high social networks perceived less
stress across stress manipulation.
Perhaps the stress manipulation was not strong enough, as evidenced
by the lack of main effects for both the perception of stress and the
time pressure manipulation check, because the students who participated
in this experiment did not believe that there were any severe consequences
for completing the experiment with minimal effort. The incentive of
participation in the experiment was L.O.C. (Learning Outside the Classroom)
extra credit and although this was a mandated requirement, participants
knew that their results would not be graded and that they would not
be punished even in the form of losing credit for leaving at any time
during the experiment. Therefore, one way to make the stress manipulation
stronger could be to decrease the amount of time allotted for the timed
word search task from six minutes, and to create consequences for failure
on the task such as losing credit. Experimenters could also ask more
specific questions in the Perceptions of Task survey such as those targeting
the subcategories (appraisal support, self-esteem support, and belonging
support) of the social network scale, such as self-respect and social
approval. This suggestion is supported by previously mentioned findings
that targeting more specific threats associated with the word-search
task such as the anticipated loss of self-respect and social approval
(Folkman & Lazarus, 1980) instead of broad questions in the questionnaire
will increase the likelihood that participants would appraise the high-stress
task as more threatening and pressured when asked about specific negative
outcomes opposed to being asked to report on general feelings that negative
outcomes occurred. This will, in turn, increase the strength of the
stress manipulation. Another way in which to make the manipulation check
stronger would be to replicate a more stressful task or situation, similar
to the public speaking task of Feldman et al.'s (2004). Public speaking
is a fairly common requirement for some college classes and therefore
the consequences of insufficient completion of the task will be more
relevant and serious to the student, such as a poor grade and loss of
respect by peers and faculty.
Findings of the "difficulty of the word search" question
were consistent with our predictions. Participants with a high social
network perceived the task to be less difficult than participants with
a low social network across both timed and untimed word search tasks.
This finding was consistent with our predictions because the buffering
effect of social support allows individuals with a high social network
to appraise the stressfulness of a situation with the perception that
they can cope with stressful events (Cohen et al. 1986).
Findings of perception of performance were also consistent with our
predictions. Participants in the high stress condition reported performing
significantly worse on the word search task than those in the low stress
condition. How we react to stressors is heavily influenced by cognitive
appraisal (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) that is based on perception
of support and not the actual support itself (Cohen et al., 1986). Stress
is a stimulus that causes sadness, low confidence, and overall decreased
health condition (Kanner, Feldman, Weinberger, & Ford, 1987). Acute
stressors elicit increases in the number of natural killer cells and
in natural killer cytotoxicity, or the production of toxins in living
cells (Cohen & Hamrick, 2003). Consequenly, how we react to stress
has been found to be due to the physiological reaction of negative emotions
that is a sign of difficulty with the task (Feldman et al., 2004).
There are many implications of these findings. First, a quasi-experiment
such as this needs to possess reactivity and internal validity, double
blind procedures, and manipulation checks. Reactivity refers to changes
in the subjects' behavior simply because they are being studied. For
example, some individuals get nervous when a doctor or nurse takes their
blood pressure, and as a result their blood pressure rises. Reactivity
poses a distinct threat to internal validity because we do not know
what caused the outcome: treatment effects or reactivity. The experimental
laboratory is probably the most reactive because people have come for
an experiment and they know their behavior is being watched. That is
why we used deception. In so doing, we tried to divert subject attention
so that the true behavior under study was not altered. Demand effects,
in which subjects or respondents "follow orders" or cooperate
in ways that they almost never would under their routine daily lives,
are also possible. For example, laboratory subjects would do virtually
anything an experimenter asked them to do. Since we told each participant
to complete the questionnaires, they simply did so without any concept
of the repercussions of their actions. That may be a reason why the
stress manipulation was not strong enough. Social Desirability effects
are also possible. Subjects may become nervous about being monitored-evaluation
apprehension. When people become anxious, physiological indicators,
such as heart rate measured in our experiment, change. If people are
slightly anxious, they may do better on tests, performance, or assessments.
However if people are very anxious they will almost certainly do worse.
This may be why there were no significant effects for perception of
stress by social network strength and stress manipulation; perhaps the
word search task was so difficult that both conditions shut down, and
they were unable to do well regardless of their social network or whether
the task was timed or untimed.
People may try to appear smarter, more attractive, or more tolerant
than they normally are. Paper and pencil questionnaires are especially
prone to these effects, because often the answers are not checked for
their truthfulness. Furthermore, most people and groups (who allow you
to study them at all) try to cooperate with researchers. But some try
to discover the purpose of the intervention and thwart it." Social
Reactance effects refer to boomerang effects in which individuals or
groups deliberately deviate from study procedures. This happens more
among college students and others who suspect that their autonomy is
One threat to external validity is the issue of the reality of the
study setting. In many cases, such as studies of classrooms or online
environments, the setting of the study is identical to the "everyday
reality" or mundane reality in which most subjects live their lives.
High mundane reality makes it easier to generalize to people's typical
settings and it facilitates external validity. However, laboratory experiments
in particular may use unusual settings or tasks. While these settings
or tasks may be engrossing or compelling, thus high in experimental
reality, they do not resemble the settings to which researchers may
really want to generalize.
Our experiment can be looked at, in its most basic sense, as basic
science, in that we learned the effects of social network on stress
responses for the sake of learning and not to solve a societal issue.
However, if participants did not pay attention to the treatment or comprehend
its message, it will appear that we had no effects at all, whereas if
we had simply used a stronger manipulation, our predictions would have
been confirmed. Therefore, since we were doing experimental work, we
needed to have a stronger manipulation check, an inclusion to measure
if subjects even paid attention to factors in the treatment and understood
For future research, we could use more deception on the experimenter
end by avoiding collecting our own data, i.e., not acting as our own
experimenter or interviewer by trading off with another student or applying
for a small university or external grant to hire someone. With more
deception, we may prevent reactivity and bias into our study. In conclusion,
our findings indicate that a sense of belonging is a powerful indicator
of health and well-being. Supporting past research, our pattern seems
to show that a lack of social network may result in increased cardiovascular
stress responses, that it is the closeness or quality as opposed to
quantity of relationships with others that matters in protecting oneself
from stress and that this protection is facilitated by increasing diversity
of a social network.
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