The stress-buffering effects of a brief dyadic interaction before an acute stressor

Health Commun. 2015;30(7):646-59. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.888385. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


Although previous studies have confirmed that affectionate interaction can reduce the effects of stress, whether or not this effect is due more to habituation or the accumulation of affection remains an area of debate. The goal of the present study was to determine how specific acts of affection mitigate the effects of stress. Sixty mixed-sex dyads (half platonic friends and half dating partners) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, affectionate interaction, quiet rest with the friend/romantic partner present, or separation from the friend/romantic partner, before one of the partners experienced a series of stressful activities. Results revealed that participants in the affection condition experienced the smallest increase in cardiovascular arousal regardless of relationship status. Participants' endocrine responses were more nuanced and depended on both their biological sex and the nature of the relationship with the companion. Given that these systems did not act in concert with one another, results provide mixed evidence for both an accumulation and habituation effect.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone