Blunted cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress predict low behavioral but not self-reported perseverance



Chauntry AJ, Williams SE & Whittaker AC (2019) Blunted cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress predict low behavioral but not self-reported perseverance. Psychophysiology, 56 (11), Art. No.: e13449.

Emerging evidence relates attenuated physiological stress reactions to poor behavioral regulation. However, only a small number of behaviors such as impulsivity and risk taking have been explored. Nevertheless, one opportunistic study suggested that blunted reactivity might relate to poor perseverance. The present study examined the relationship between cardiovascular reactivity to acute active psychological stress and self‐reported and behavioral perseverance. Participants (N = 64) completed a self‐report perseverance questionnaire before heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) were measured at rest and in response to 4‐min active (paced auditory serial addition; PASAT) and passive (cold pressor) stress tests. This was followed by an unsolvable Euler puzzle tracing task, with the time spent and number of attempts endeavoring to solve the puzzle recorded as behavioral perseverance measures. Blunted systolic and diastolic BP reactivity to the PASAT was associated with fewer attempts at the impossible puzzle, and lower diastolic BP PASAT reactivity related to less time persevering at the puzzle. Moreover, attenuated diastolic BP and HR PASAT reactivity predicted poorer perseverance at keeping one's hand in the iced water of the cold pressor task. There was no association between reactivity and self‐reported perseverance. These preliminary findings add to the evidence that implicates blunted reactivity as a physiological marker of poor behavioral regulation, and this may indicate why individuals with blunted reactivity are at increased risk of developing negative health outcomes (e.g., obesity and addictions).

blood pressure; cardiovascular reactivity; heart rate; perseverance; psychological stress

Psychophysiology: Volume 56, Issue 11

FundersH2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and University of Birmingham
Publication date30/11/2019
Publication date online02/08/2019
Date accepted by journal08/07/2019

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Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Sport