Cardiovascular reactivity, stress, and personal emotional salience: Choose your tasks carefully

Kyle J. Bourassa, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Both greater cardiovascular reactivity and lesser reactivity (“blunting”) to laboratory stressors are linked to poor health outcomes, including among people who have a history of traumatic experiences. In a sample of recently separated and divorced adults (N = 96), this study examined whether differences in cardiovascular reactivity might be explained by differences in the personal emotional salience of the tasks and trauma history. Participants were assessed for trauma history, current distress related to their marital dissolution, and cardiovascular reactivity during two tasks, a serial subtraction math stressor task and a divorce-recall task. Participants with a greater trauma history evidenced less blood pressure reactivity to the serial subtraction task (a low personal emotional salience task) when compared to participants with less trauma history. In contrast, participants with a greater trauma history evidenced higher blood pressure reactivity to the divorce-recall task, but only if they also reported more divorce-related distress (high personal emotional salience). These associations were not significant for heart rate reactivity. Among people with a history of more traumatic experiences, a task with low personal salience was associated with a lower blood pressure response, whereas a task with higher personal emotional salience was associated with a higher blood pressure response. Future studies examining cardiovascular reactivity would benefit from determining the personal emotional salience of tasks, particularly for groups that have experienced stressful life events or trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14037
JournalPSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY
Volume59
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • blood pressure
  • cardiovascular reactivity
  • divorce
  • emotional salience
  • heart rate
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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