Look­ing stressed can help keep the peace – Re­search

Sunday Trust - - NEWS HEALTH - Source: www.sci­encedaily.com

Scratch­ing is more than an itch -- when it is sparked by stress, it ap­pears to re­duce ag­gres­sion from oth­ers and lessen the chance of con­flict. Scratch­ing can be a sign of stress in many pri­mates, in­clud­ing hu­mans.

Re­search by Jamie White­house from the Univer­sity of Portsmouth, is the first to sug­gest that these stress be­hav­iours can be re­sponded to by oth­ers, and that they might have evolved as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool to help so­cial co­he­sion.

The re­search, pub­lished in Sci­en­tific Re­ports, raises the ques­tion whether hu­man scratch­ing and sim­i­lar self-directed stress be­hav­iours serve a sim­i­lar func­tion.

Jamie said: “Ob­serv­able stress be­hav­iours could have evolved as a way of re­duc­ing ag­gres­sion in so­cially com­plex species of pri­mates. Show­ing oth­ers you are stressed could ben­e­fit both the scratcher and those watch­ing, be­cause both par­ties can then avoid con­flict.”

The re­search team con­ducted be­havioural ob­ser­va­tions of 45 rhe­sus macaques from a group of 200, on the 35-acre is­land of Cayo San­ti­ago, Puerto Rico. The team mon­i­tored the nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring so­cial in­ter­ac­tions be­tween these an­i­mals over a pe­riod of eight months.

The re­searchers found that scratch­ing in the mon­keys was more likely to oc­cur in times of height­ened stress, such as be­ing close to high-rank­ing in­di­vid­u­als or to non-friends.

Stress scratch­ing sig­nif­i­cantly low­ered the like­li­hood of a scratch­ing monkey be­ing at­tacked.

The like­li­hood of ag­gres­sion when a high rank­ing monkey ap­proached a lower rank­ing monkey was 75 per cent if no scratch­ing took place, and only 50 per cent when the lower rank­ing monkey scratched.

Scratch­ing also re­duced the chance of ag­gres­sion be­tween in­di­vid­u­als who did not have a strong so­cial bond.

Jamie said: “As scratch­ing can be a sign of so­cial stress, po­ten­tial at­tack­ers might be avoid­ing at­tack­ing ob­vi­ously stressed in­di­vid­u­als be­cause such in­di­vid­u­als could be­have un­pre­dictably or be weak­ened by their stress, mean­ing an at­tack could be either risky or un­nec­es­sary.

“By re­veal­ing stress to oth­ers, we are help­ing them pre­dict what we might do, so the sit­u­a­tion be­comes more trans­par­ent. Trans­parency ul­ti­mately re­duces the need for con­flict, which ben­e­fits ev­ery­one and pro­motes a more so­cially co­he­sive group.”

The re­searchers ex­pect the find­ings will lead to a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of stress and the evo­lu­tion of stress in hu­mans as well as how we man­age stress in cap­tive an­i­mals.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.