Defensiveness and individual response stereotypy in asthma

Jonathan M. Feldman, Paul M. Lehrer, Stuart M. Hochron, Gary E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objective: Previous literature has shown that the psychological trait of defensiveness is related to elevated sympathetic reactivity to stress and to several cardiac risk factors. The aim of this study was to examine whether these previous findings on defensiveness extend to an asthmatic population. Methods: Defensiveness was measured by the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale using a quartile split: high (upper 25%) and low (bottom 75%). Twenty-two defensive and 66 nondefensive participants with asthma were exposed to laboratory tasks (initial baseline rest period, reaction time task, and a shop accident film). Results: During the tasks there was evidence of lower skin conductance levels and greater respiratory sinus arrhythmia amplitudes among defensive patients with asthma. After exposure to the tasks, defensive patients with asthma showed a decline on spirometry test measures compared with nondefensive asthmatic patients, who displayed an increase. Conclusions: These data confirm individual response stereotypy and suggest that defensiveness may be characterized by sympathetic hypoarousal and parasympathetic hyperarousal among patients with asthma. Future studies are needed to determine whether defensiveness is a risk factor for stress-induced bronchoconstriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-301
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Asthma
  • Defensiveness
  • Pulmonary function
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Skin conductance level
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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