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

Aiden Chauntry, Sarah Williams, Anna Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
161 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Emerging evidence relates attenuated physiological stress reactions to poor behavioural regulation. However, only a small number of behaviours, 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 both self-reported and behavioural 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-minute 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 endeavouring to solve the puzzle recorded as behavioural 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 were no associations between reactivity and self-reported perseverance. These preliminary findings add to the evidence which implicates blunted reactivity as a physiological marker of poor behavioural regulation, and this may indicate why individuals with blunted reactivity are at greater risk of developing negative health outcomes (e.g. obesity and addictions).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13449
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume56
Issue number11
Early online date2 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Keywords

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

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