Being confronted with social-evaluative stress elicits a physiological and a psychological stress response. This calls for regulatory processes to manage negative affect and maintain self-related optimistic beliefs. The aim of the current study was to investigate the affect-regulating potential of self-related updating of ability beliefs after exposure to social-evaluative stress, in comparison to non-social physical stress or no stress. We assessed self-related belief updating using trial-by-trial performance feedback and described the updating behavior in a mechanistic way using computational modeling. We found that social-evaluative stress was accompanied by an increase in cortisol and negative affect which was related to a positive shift in self-related belief updating. This self-beneficial belief updating, which was absent after physical stress or control, was associated with a better recovery from stress-induced negative affect. This indicates that enhanced integration of positive self-related feedback can act as a coping strategy to deal with social-evaluative stress.
Self-beneficial belief updating as a coping mechanism for stress-induced negative affect.