The stress-affiliation paradigm revisited: Do people prefer the kindness of strangers or their attractiveness?

Norman P. Li, Rose A. Halterman, Margaret J. Cason, George P. Knight, Jon K. Maner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Two studies employed a classic affiliation-under-stress paradigm and examined people's preferences for affiliating with kind versus attractive same- and opposite-sex targets. When men were under default conditions of low stress, they preferred to affiliate with attractive women. However, men placed in a high stress situation instead preferred to interact with kind women. Regardless of stress level, women preferred to affiliate with kind, rather than attractive, men. When choosing among interaction partners of their own sex, participants uniformly chose to interact with kind others, regardless of stress level. This research builds on traditional stress-affiliation research, which has focused on whether people wish to affiliate with others who are currently in or have already experienced the same stressful situations. The current research suggests that stress may affect the enduring personal traits we seek in others. Possible motivations underlying men's and women's preferences in the current study (e.g., mating goals, self-protective goals) are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-391
Number of pages10
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Affiliation
  • Mating
  • Sex differences
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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