Social defeat

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Social defeat refers to losing a confrontation among conspecific animals, or any kind of hostile dispute among humans, in either a dyadic or in a group-individual context, generating very significant consequences in terms of control over resources, access to mates and social positions.


Research on social stress has developed a variety of different approaches, developing a wealthy body of literature, providing a richness of perspectives. However, most of the theories developed have either a lack of ecological validity (similarity with natural conditions and stressors) or are not amenable to scientific investigation (difficult to test and verify).

On the one side, social psychological approaches to human aggression have developed a multitude of perspectives, based on observations of human phenomena like bullying, mobbing, physical and verbal abuse, relational and indirect aggression, etc. Despite the richness of theories developed, the body of knowledge generated have not satisfied scientific requirements of testability and verifiability.

By the other side, animal studies of within-species aggression developed in 2 main branches: A) approaches based on laboratory experiments, on controlled conditions, allowing the measurement of behavioral, endocrine and neurological variables, but with the shortcoming of applying unnatural stressors (like foot-shocks, confinement stress, etc) in unnatural conditions (the cage, a poor artificial environment); B) approaches based on...
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