Short and long-term spread and modulation of individual physiological stress states in the collective

Bhernandez from miami, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

We have all experienced a tangible ‘tension’, in social situations. Surprisingly, there is little empirical work addressing the scientific basis of such processes, or their consequences. Traditionally, social transmission research has focused on the spread of behaviours, skills, opinions, or information within groups and populations. Departing from tradition, this CASCB project is pursuing a new line of inquiry that considers the social contagion of physiological states. If a physiological state—like stress—can spread, there are likely to be major consequences for collectives, both good and bad. A stressed individual could alert the group to a nearby threat, but also reduce group functioning at the same time.

The project aims at investigating physiological stress transmission across four different species—birds, mice, fish, and humans—with a special focus on these effects in groups. It implements similar study designs across species to investigate effects of stress induction in one or more subjects out of a larger group being investigated. Dependent variables include physiological and endocrinological parameters, and behavioural correlates.