The “social buffering” phenomenon proposes that social support facilitates wellbeing by reducing stress in a number of different ways. While this phenomenon may benefit agents with social support from others, its potential effects on the wider social group are less clear. Using a biologically-inspired artificial life model, we have investigated how some of the hypothesised hormonal mechanisms that underpin the “social buffering” phenomenon affect the wellbeing and interactions of agents without social support across numerous social and physical contexts. We tested these effects in a small, rank-based society, with half of the agents endowed with numerous hormonal mechanisms associated with “social buffering”, and half without. Surprisingly, our results found that these “social buffering” mechanisms provided survival-related advantages to agents without social support across numerous conditions. We found that agents with socially-adaptive mechanisms themselves become a proxy for adaptation, and suggest that, in some (artificial) societies, “social buffering” may be a contagious phenomenon.

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