Adolescent girls’ physiological reactivity to real-world peer feedback: A pilot study to validate a Peer Expressed Emotion task

Rosalind D. Butterfield, Rebecca B. Price, Mary L. Woody, Amanda S. Morris, Jennifer S. Silk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Peer feedback becomes highly salient during adolescence, especially for girls. The way in which adolescents react to social feedback is associated with psychosocial adjustment and mental health. Consequently, researchers are increasingly interested in understanding the physiological and neural underpinnings of adolescent response to feedback by simulating the experience of rejection and acceptance using computer-based paradigms. However, these paradigms typically use nonfamiliar peers and the facade of internet chatrooms or games to present artificial peer feedback. The current study piloted the use of a novel and potentially more ecologically valid peer expressed emotion paradigm in which participants listen to prerecorded clips of ostensible personalized feedback made by their close friend. Physiological data measuring autonomic nervous system response were collected as an index of emotional reactivity/arousal and cognitive-affective processing. Results show promising preliminary evidence validating the task for future use. Participants (N = 18 girls, aged 11–17 years) reported feeling more positive following praise, relative to critical and neutral feedback, and reported feeling more upset following criticism, relative to praise and neutral feedback. Girls exhibited greater pupillary dilation, skin conductance levels (N = 17), and/or heart rate (N = 17) while listening to affectively charged, peer feedback compared with neutral yet personally relevant statements. Girls also exhibited variable physiological response when listening to praising versus critical feedback. Findings from this pilot study validate the use of this novel Peer Expressed Emotion task for the investigation of adolescents’ emotional and physiological reactivity in response to real-world peer evaluation. However, it is important to recognize that this study provides only preliminary findings and that future research is needed to replicate the results in larger samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105057
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Adolescence
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Peer feedback
  • Physiological arousal
  • Pupillometry
  • Social development


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