Publication Date

Fall 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Marie Haverfield

Subject Areas



In communication episodes featuring heightened stress, interactions that are perceived as threatening and evoke a sense of powerlessness often predict a cycle of victimization. Meanwhile, social interactions which affirm safety and agency amidst stress foster empowerment. This study utilized Hoplology, which studies stress inoculation against aggression and posttraumatic stress, and Communibiology, the study of neurobiology as an antecedent and outcome of communication, to explore (a) whether Adrenal Stress Scenario Training in Feminist Self-Defense (ASST-FSD) produces a physiological response to promote stress inoculation, (b) how anxiety impacts physiological response, and (c) reports of mental toughness. A 4-day ASST-FSD training pilot study was conducted to collect saliva samples to measure stress response via the hormone cortisol and pre-post self-report surveys to measure cognitive markers of stress-coping (mental toughness). Findings suggest ASST-FSD may require more extensive training features to promote a physiological behavior change, and future research with a larger sample could benefit from exploring stress adaptations and recovery, particularly with marginalized populations likely to experience interpersonal violence.