From the APS Journal Archive: Facing Freeze : Social Threat Induces Bodily Freeze in Humans

‘Facing Freeze : Social Threat Induces Bodily Freeze in Humans’ by Karin Roelofs1,2, Muriel A. Hagenaars1 and John Stins3 was published in Psychological Science in November 2010 and has been cited 8 times (via Web of Science) since publication.

Click here to read the article in full.


Freezing is a common defensive response in animals threatened by predators. It is characterized by reduced body motion and decreased heart rate (bradycardia). However, despite the relevance of animal defense models in human stress research, studies have not shown whether social threat cues elicit similar freeze-like responses in humans. We investigated body sway and heart rate in 50 female participants while they were standing on a stabilometric force platform and viewing cues that were socially threatening, socially neutral, and socially affiliative (angry, neutral, and happy faces, respectively). Posturographic analyses showed that angry faces (compared with neutral faces and happy faces) induced significant reductions in body sway. In addition, the reduced body sway for angry faces was accompanied by bradycardia and correlated significantly with subjective anxiety. Together, these findings indicate that spontaneous body responses to social threat cues involve freeze-like behavior in humans that mimics animal freeze responses. These findings open avenues for studying human freeze responses in relation to various sociobiological markers and social-affective disorders.

1Department of Clinical, Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University Institute for Psychological Research
2Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC)
3Research Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam

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