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When perceived as threatening, social interactions have been shown to trigger the sympathoadrenal medullary system as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis resulting in a physiologic stress response. The allostatic load placed on human health and physiology in the context of acute and chronic stress can have profound health consequences. The purpose of this study was to develop a protocol for a lab-based stress stimulus using social-evaluative threat. While several valid, stress-stimulating protocols exist, we sought to develop one that triggered a physiologic response, did not require significant lab resources, and could be completed in around 10 min. We included 53 participants (29 men and 24 women) and exposed them to a modified version of the Stroop Color-Word Interference Task during which the participants were made to feel they were performing the task poorly while the lead researcher feigned annoyance and frustration. After exposure to this Feigned Annoyance and Frustration (FAF) Test, both the men and women in this study demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful increase in subjective stress on the visual analog scale. Additionally, the men in this study demonstrated a statistically significant increase in heart rate and salivary α-amylase concentrations after exposure to the test. The women in this study did not demonstrate a statistically significant increase in the physiologic stress biomarkers. This protocol for the FAF Test shows promise to researchers with limited time and resources who are interested in experimentally activating the sympathoadrenal medullary system.


This article was originally published in Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology, volume 18, in 2024.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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