Revisiting the lack of association between affect and physiology: Contrasting between-person and within-person analyses

Matthew J. Zawadzki, Joshua M. Smyth, Martin J. Sliwinski, John M. Ruiz, William Gerin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite experimental manipulations that reliably elicit affective and physiological responses, the relationship between the two frequently appears small or nonexistent. We propose that this is, at least in part, due to a mismatch between the nature of the question being asked and the analytic methods applied. For example, to test if levels of affect reliably covary with physiology over time-a withinperson question-one cannot apply analytic approaches that test whether people are similarly reactive across domains-a between-person question. The purpose of this paper is to compare within-person and between-person analyses testing the association between affect and physiology. Method: Participants (N = 60) recalled an event from their lives that made them angry. Self-reported anger and objective blood pressure levels were recorded at baseline, after the recall, and 5 times during recovery. Results: Between-person correlations between anger and blood pressure were nonsignificant across all phases of the study, suggesting that those least/most reactive for anger were not least/most reactive for blood pressure. These null findings held regardless of whether linear or nonlinear assumptions were modeled. In contrast, within-person multilevel modeling indicated a clear relationship, suggesting that when a person was angrier that person's blood pressure was higher compared with when that person was less angry. Conclusion: Results suggest the importance of appropriately matching analytic strategy to the nature of the question regarding the relationships between affect and physiology. Implications for past and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-818
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Anger
  • Blood pressure
  • Correlation
  • Physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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