Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Scott T. Gaynor

Second Advisor

Dr. Amy Damashek

Third Advisor

Dr. Monnica T. Williams

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Denise Ross


TSST, interracial dyads, intergroup contact


A number of factors contribute to retention among college students, including social support and feelings of belonging (Rayle & Chung, 2007). Although college campuses are among the most racially diverse settings in our segregated society (Fischer, 2011), students differ in their perception of the racial climate on campus (Chavous, 2005). Social Baseline Theory (SBT) proposes that human functioning under stress is dependent on adequate social support and that, at baseline, biological systems are adapted to operate interdependently rather than independently (Hughes, Crowell, Uyeji, & Coan, 2012). Specifically, the substantial empirical support for SBT shows that stressful situations are less toxic (physiologically, hormonally, and subjectively) when another person, even a stranger, is present compared to when alone. However, there is a lack of research explicitly examining the replicability of this finding among interracial dyads. It is possible, based on different perspectives of the racial climate and different experiences in Intergroup contact between Black and White students, that SBT is conditional. That is, in interracial dyads, the presence of an out-group member may not reduce stress. The current study provides an initial test with two main aims. First, to replicate and extend the findings from the Social Baseline Theory (Coan, Schaefer, & Davidson, 2006) using the Trier Social Stress Test by examining whether White students would experience and report less stress when with a White (confederate) Partner than alone. Secondly, to explore whether the race of the partner influenced how the stressful situations were experienced by examining the effects of pairing Black students with a White (confederate) Partner. Fifty-four undergraduate students (Mage = 21.17; 28% male, 72% female; 68.5% White, 31.5% Black) were recruited from a predominantly White, Midwestern university and asked to participate in a study evaluating their ability to solve problems under time constraints. White participants were randomly assigned to either an Alone or White (confederate) Partner condition. All Black participants were assigned to have a White (confederate) Partner. All participants completed a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test (Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993), which involved giving a speech and completing a challenging vocal arithmetic task without (Alone condition) or with a White confederate (Partner condition). Participant heart rate and self-reported state anxiety served as repeated measures. The heart rate, but not self-reported state anxiety, data were generally consistent with predictions from SBT, as heart rate was statistically significantly higher in the Alone compared to both Partner conditions during the speech. There were no statistically significant differences between the Partner conditions. These data extend the findings supporting SBT to Black-White interracial dyads of collegians.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Restricted to Campus until