Challenge and threat states: examining cardiovascular, cognitive, and affective responses to two distinct laboratory stress tasks

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Background: The theory of challenge and threat states in athletes (TCTSA) proposes psychological antecedents will predict psychological and cardiovascular responses to stress. The present study investigated this theory in two contextually different stress tasks.

Method: 78 males completed a computerised competition and a public speaking task. Cardiovascular activity was measured with impedance cardiography and a blood pressure monitor. Challenge and threat antecedents, indicators of challenge and threat and emotions were assessed pre- and post-tasks.

Results: Both tasks induced significant perturbations in cardiovascular activity and were perceived as highly challenging. Reported perceived threat was higher in the public speaking task compared to the competition task. Associations between the proposed antecedents, self-report and cardiovascular indices of challenge and threat and emotions support the TCTSA for the competition task, but less so for the public speaking task.

Conclusion: The TCTSA is supported during competitive stress, however during social stress there is dissociation between self-report appraisals and cardiovascular reactivity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-51
JournalInternational journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology
Early online date2 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • cardiovascular reactivity , challenge and threat , TCTSA , biopsychosocial , cognitive appraisals , psychological stress