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Biol Psychol. 1979 Jun;8(4):265-72.

Differential effects of state and trait anxiety on heart rate responses and reaction time.


College students were tested on 10 trials of a reaction time task, using a variable interval warning signal, while heart rate was recorded. Subjects were divided into high and low anxiety groups using a median split based on their scores on a modification of the trait scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The low anxiety group exhibited faster reaction times, shorter latency heart rate deceleration following warning signal onset, and a more consistent deceleration immediately prior to the respond signal than the high anxiety group. When the same subjects were divided into groups according to state anxiety, no group differences were found in either heart rate or reaction time. In Part II of the study, subjects listened to six 15 s presentations of a 70 dbA, 250 Hz tone. No group differences in heart rate responses to the tones were found for either state or trait anxiety groups.

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