Collective Behaviour - Fall Seminar Series 2020

The physiological resonance of psychosocial stress

Veronika Engert, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Veronika Engert is an Independent Research Group Leader of the "Social Stress and Family Health“ Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and Professor of Social Neuroscience at the Institute for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the University Clinic in Jena, Germany.

The physiological resonance of psychosocial stress

Psychosocial stress is omnipresent in Western societies. While acute stress responses are necessary and adaptive, excessive activation of neurobiological stress systems can predispose an individual to far-reaching adverse health outcomes. Living in a complex social environment, experiencing stress is not limited to challenges humans face individually. Linked with our capacity for empathy, we also display the tendency to physiologically resonate with the stress responses of the people around us. This recently identified source of stress raises many interesting questions. Does everybody mount empathic stress responses, or are there personality traits, environments and conditions that promote its occurrence? Is empathic stress adaptive or maladaptive? Are there vulnerable groups, like the children of chronically stressed parents that are at an increased risk to develop stress-associated diseases due to the long-term confrontation with the stress of others? While no final answer to most of these questions exits to date, I will summarize the current knowledge, and provide insight in the newest research developments.

Datum: 2021-01-25