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Biol Psychol. 1986 Dec;23(3):247-63.

Pace variation and control of work pace as related to cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and subjective responses.


Two studies of paced and self-paced arithmetic performance are reported. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded and ratings of subjective arousal obtained. In one of the studies, plasma levels of catecholamines and cortisol were determined. Under externally paced experimental conditions pace variation was found to be quantitatively related to changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as to ratings of stress and irritation. This was not the case for heart rate or positively evaluated aspects of subjective arousal. Performance was better and ratings of stress and irritation were lower during self-paced than during paced work at a comparable work pace. In one of the studies the diastolic blood pressure increased less when subjects controlled the pace. Plasma catecholamines did not increase significantly during either externally or self-paced work, but adrenaline tended to increase during paced work. Our findings give partial support to the suggestion that personal control may attenuate sympathoadrenal activation and cardiovascular reactivity.

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