Brain, Biology and Behavior, Center for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Evolutionary Psychological Science (2016) 2:199–206


Open Access licensed.


Current evolutionary theories regarding the nature of hormonal responses to a variety of salient social stimuli are incomplete in yielding evidentiary support for their assertions. This study offers more nuanced evidence for the Tend-and- Befriend model of sex differences in responses to social stimuli. Participants were randomly assigned to a mortality salience prime or a control condition prior to viewing a video of an out-group threat or a video of infants crying. Cortisol and testosterone responses were assessed. The results showed that in mortality salience conditions, females showed significantly higher cortisol responses to infants crying compared to males. Further, in both mortality salience and control conditions, females showed significantly higher testosterone responses to the crying infants than males. Males showed a greater testosterone response to viewing an out-group threat. Mortality salience prime did not impact testosterone responses in either sex. Results point to a more nuanced representation of hormonal responses to social stimuli and the need for multisystem measurement.