Self-esteem and autonomic physiology: Self-esteem levels predict cardiac vagal tone

Andy Martens, Jeff Greenberg, John J.B. Allen, Joseph Hayes, Jeff Schimel, Michael Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Four studies examined the relationship between self-esteem and cardiac vagal tone (level of influence of the parasympathetic nervous system on the heart), a variable with health implications for heart disease and auto-immune disorders. Building on evidence that self-esteem provides a sense of security and that a sense of security affects cardiac vagal tone, we theorize that self-esteem should impact cardiac vagal tone. Two experiments showed that positive self-esteem relevant feedback increases cardiac vagal tone relative to negative feedback. Two correlational studies showed that higher self-esteem measured daily over the course of 2 weeks predicted higher resting cardiac vagal tone. Theoretical and physical health implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-584
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Heart rate variability
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Self-esteem
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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