Psychophysiological responses to cooperation: The role of outcome and gender

Luis Moya‐Albiol, Sara De Andrés‐García, María Victoria Sanchis‐Calatayud, Patricia Sariñana‐González, Nicolás Ruiz‐Robledillo, Ángel Romero‐Martínez, Esperanza González‐Bono
Published Online:
19 Apr 2012
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 48 Issue 4

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Instances of sustained cooperative behaviour in humans can be considered as an adaptive strategy that enhances the probability of reaching a goal. This study investigates psychophysiological responses to cooperation in healthy subjects, while considering outcome and gender as potential moderators of these responses. Salivary cortisol levels (Csal), heart rate (HR), skin conductance level (SCL), nonspecific skin conductance responses (NSRs), and mood states were measured at different points before, during and after a Lego house‐building task in undergraduate men (n = 22) and women (n = 20). Once the task was finished, the experimenter informed the participants about the outcome obtained (positive or negative). Cooperation produces an increase in HR, SCL, and NSR responses. When the outcome is positive it produces a gradual diminution in Csal levels, but when the outcome is negative there is a significant increase in Csal levels after the task followed by a progressive decrease. Men with positive outcomes showed a lower area under curve (AUC) in Csal than women with a negative outcome. Men had more NSR responses in all periods other than the rest period. Several mood states are differently affected by the combined effect of outcome and gender. Our laboratory results can be generalized to other situations in which negotiation, mediation, and cooperative strategies are relevant for taking decisions and/or solving problems.

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