Patterning of cognitive and somatic processes in the self-regulation of anxiety: Effects of meditation versus exercise

G. E. Schwartz, R. J. Davidson, D. J. Goleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

275 Scopus citations


Davidson and Schwartz have proposed a psychobiological analysis of anxiety that emphasizes the patterning of multiple processes in the generation and self-regulation of this state. The present article specifically reviews recent research on cognitive and somatic components of anxiety. A dual component scale which separately assesses cognitive and somatic trait anxiety is described and applied to the study of the differential effects of a somatic (physical exercise) and a cognitive (meditation) relaxation procedure. A total of 77 subjects was employed; 44 regularly practiced physical exercise and 33 regularly practiced meditation for comparable periods of time. As predicted, subjects practicing physical exercise reported relatively less somatic and more cognitive anxiety than meditators. These data suggest that specific subcomponents of anxiety may be differentially associated with relaxation techniques engaging primarily cognitive versus somatic subsystems. It is proposed that relaxation consists of a generalized reduction in multiple physiological systems (termed the relaxation response by Benson) and a more specific pattern of changes superimposed upon this general reduction, which is elicited by the particular technique employed. The data from this retrospective study need to be followed up by prospective studies to establish the precise mechanisms for these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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