The relationship between state affect and cardiovascular responding during laboratory stressors

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Patrice G. Saab - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to determine whether the BP and HR responding of blacks and whites during laboratory stressors could be predicted from concurrent anger and anxiety levels. Eighty-eight normotensive college students (22 black males, 22 black females, 22 white males, 22 white females) participated in three laboratory tasks which have been associated with elevations in either affective (anger or anxiety) or cardiovascular responding. They are: (1) the cold pressor; (2) a speech task; and (3) star tracing. Subjects uniformly responded with increased SBP, DBP, and HR levels over baseline during all the tasks. All tasks also elicited anger and anxiety responses significantly greater than baseline. There was only one differential racial response with respect to the cardiovascular or affective parameters. Specifically, in response to the cold pressor, blacks responded with increased HR levels over baseline while whites did not. In general, psychological factors did not account for significant proportions of variance in task cardiovascular parameters for white subjects. The exception was anger during speech preparation which was inversely related to the magnitude of SBP responding and accounted for 14% of the variance in task SBP for white males only. For black females, task anxiety accounted for significant proportions of variance in SBP (10%) and DBP (16%) during the cold pressor. In addition, task anxiety was the only psychological variable which discriminated among high and low cardiovascular responders to the tasks. Specifically, task anxiety was a significant predictor for high and low DBP responders to the cold pressor and speech preparation tasks and for high and low HR responders to the cold pressor and star tracing tasks.


Psychology, Physiological

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