Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Shields, Grant

Committee Member/Reader

Stenken, Julie

Committee Member/Second Reader

Coridan, Robert

Committee Member/Third Reader

Thomas, Johanna


The stress response is an essential physiological process that facilitates survival in threatening conditions. Stress impacts numerous bodily systems, and prior work has focused on cortisol, a steroid derived from cholesterol, as a key biomarker for assessing biological stress reactivity in humans. Social stressors are known to contribute to marked increased in cortisol levels, but to date little work has examined whether social situations known to be stressful in person can influence cortisol when those situations occur remotely. In this study, I investigated the effects of a Zoom-based social stressor on salivary cortisol. Participants were randomly assigned to the Zoom-stress or Zoom-control conditions, and saliva samples were collected before and after the manipulation to assess cortisol levels. I hypothesized that the Zoom based stressor would produce a cortisol response like in-person stressors do. Consistent with my hypothesis, I found that the Zoom-based stressor significantly increased cortisol levels and subjective stress relative to the control condition task, indicating that stressful social situations can elicit a stress response even when they are virtual. This work has implications for our understandings of stress and our increasingly virtual world.


Stress, Cortisol, ELISA, assay, TSST, virtual, VTSST, saliva, virtual stress, stress response, cortisol response, cortisol assays, cortisol assay