Individuals with high interdependent self-construal generally define themselves as a social role, and assign great values to their social relationships. Social evaluation threat is an important situational factor that induces psychosocial stress. However, it is not known whether individuals with high interdependent self-construal will exhibit more intense stress responses under situations of psychological stress. In addition, social support represents an important factor for the individual’s acceptance by the social group. However, it remains unknown whether social support is effective in coping with the stress responses induced by psychological stress in the high interdependent self-construal individuals. Therefore, the present study sought to investigate: (1) the psychosocial stress response of the high interdependent self-construal individuals; (2) the roles of social support in coping with the psychological stress for high interdependent self-construal individuals. We hypothesized that: (1) the high interdependent self-construal individuals would have greater stress response under psychological stress situations; (2) in the context of social support, individuals with high interdependent self-construal will exhibit lower stress levels.
We selected 60 college students in a University (Chongqing, China) through advertisements. The 60 participants were randomly divided into two groups: the self support-priming group and social support-priming group. The experiences of self support or social support were induced by different primings. A version of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) adapted for Chinese was used to induce the acute psychosocial stress. We used salivary cortisol, heart rate and subjective reported stress as indicators of stress. Throughout the course of the experiment, we performed 7 separate measurements of these indices, and evaluated the interdependent self-construal using the self-construal scale.
Using two-way ANOVA with priming as a between-subject variable and time points as a within-subject variable, we discovered a significant effect of the time points: salivary cortisol, F(6, 258) = 15.83, p < 0.001, ηp 2 = 0.269; heart rate, F(7, 301) = 69.15, p < 0.001, ηp 2 = 0.617; subjective reported stress, F(6, 258) = 67.58, p < 0.001, ηp 2 = 0.611. We used the area under the curve with respect to the increase (AUCi) of time points of the three stress indices as the changes in stress levels across the experiment. The independent-sample t-test revealed that the AUCi of the salivary cortisol of the group with social support was significantly lower than that of the self support group: t(43) = 1.95, p = 0.058, d’ = 0.594, 95% CI [-0.022, 1.314]. The AUCg of the heart rate and subjective reported stress showed no significant differences between the two priming groups. Furthermore, we used the AUCi of cortisol to assess changes in stress levels. We conducted linear regression analysis with the AUCi of cortisol as the dependent variable, and priming and interdependent self-construal as the independent variables. The interaction effect of priming and interdependent self-construal was significant: β = -0.27, p = 0.038, ΔR 2 = 0.073, 95% CI [-0.528, -0.016]. We adopted a simple slope test for further analysis. The results indicated that the stress level of high interdependent self-construal individuals who accepted social support were significantly lower than those under self support: β = -0.75, t = -3.59, p < 0.001. In contrast, these differences were not identified in individuals with low interdependent self-construal.
Taken together, consistent with previous reports, the present study found that the individuals with high interdependent self-construal exhibit more intense stress response under the psychosocial stress. Furthermore, we discovered that for individuals with high interdependent self-construal, social support could effectively alleviate their stress response. These results provide an effective stress coping strategy for individuals with high interdependent self-construal.