Cardiac Vagal Tone, defensiveness, and motivational style

Hallam L. Movius, John J.B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Cardiac Vagal Tone has been proposed as a stable biological marker for the ability to sustain attention and regulate emotion [Porges, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 59 (1994) 167-186]. Vagal tone is a physiological index of parasympathetic nervous system influence on the heart that has predicted a number of emotional behaviors and styles in infants, children, and adults. Little research, however, has sought to explore the link between vagal tone and established variables relating to personality and self-regulation. In this study, vagal tone was collected during 5-min baseline, stress, and recovery periods. Subjects (n=98) also completed a short form of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, the Behavioral Activation and Behavioral Inhibition Scales, the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale, the Self-Consciousness Scale, and the Openness to Experience subscale of the Five Factor Personality Inventory. Poorer modulation for vagal tone was associated with greater social anxiety, while lower vagal tone across recording periods was associated with greater defensiveness and lower behavioral activation sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-162
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Defensiveness
  • Marlowe-Crowne
  • RSA
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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