Yielding to social presence as a bioenergetic strategy: Preliminary evidence using fMRI

Gonzalez, M. Z., Coppola, A. M., Allen, J. P., & Coan, J. (2021).

Yielding to social presence as a bioenergetic strategy: Preliminary evidence using fMRI

. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 2.


All life must strategically conserve and allocate resources in order to meet the challenges of living. Social Baseline Theory suggests that, for humans, social context and the social resources therein are a central ecology in human phylogeny. In ontogeny, this manifests in flexible bioenergetic strategies that vary in the population based on social history. We introduce yielding, a conservation process wherein we relax physiological investment in response to a challenge when in the presence of a relational partner. The availability of these conserved resources then impact response to subsequent challenges while alone and if this pattern is habitual, it can reciprocally influence strategies used to solve or cope with typical stress. We discuss neural targets of this resource conservation and reframe our lab's previous studies on the social regulation of neural threat responding within this framework. We then show functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data indicating the presence of relational partners decreases blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) response to threat in key targets of resource conservation (e.g., dlPFC, dACC, and insula) and that stronger signal reduction in these areas coincide with less BOLD in pre-frontal (dlPFC. vmPFC) and visuo-sensory integration (occipital cortex, precuneus, superior parietal lobule) regions during ostracism. Finally, we show that these neural relationships are associated with less use of self-regulation-based coping strategies two years post scanning. Taken together, we show the utility of yielding both as a concept and as a bioenergetic process which helps to conserve energy in this social primate.

Last updated on 06/16/2022