Perceived appearance judgments moderate the biological stress effects of social exchanges

Ashley M. Geiger
Natalie J. Sabik, University of Rhode Island
Sarah B. Lupis
Kirsten M. Rene
Jutta M. Wolf


Social relationships are generally thought of as beneficial. However, the present study set out to test the hypothesis that for individuals who perceive others to judge their appearance negatively, daily social interactions can also be a source of stress. Indeed when assessing 38 young adults, we found that both more incidences of negative exchanges reported during the past month as well as perceived negative appearance judgments by others were associated with more self-reported stress. Interestingly, however, for individuals with low attribution body esteem, higher numbers of positive social exchanges during the past month were related to health-relevant changes in biological markers of chronic stress as well. The same was true for individuals with high attribution body esteem who reported to experience only very few positive exchanges. As such, these findings go beyond the initial focus on low body esteem and negative social exchanges and introduce high body esteem as well as daily positive exchanges as potential health risk factors.