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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995 Jan;68(1):159-69.

State and trait negative affect as predictors of objective and subjective symptoms of respiratory viral infections.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania 15213.


State and trait negative affect (NA) were measured in healthy people immediately before an illness was induced through exposure to a respiratory virus. State NA, disease-specific health complaints (e.g., runny nose, congestion, and sneezing), and an associated objective marker of disease severity (mucus secretion weights) were assessed daily during the illness. Baseline trait and state NA were both associated with increased numbers of subsequent complaints. Although greater numbers of complaints among people high in state NA were explicable in terms of greater disease severity, the association of trait NA and symptoms was independent of objective disease. The trait NA complaint association was also independent of state NA and hence not attributable to trait-elicited state affect. Greater trait NA was associated with biases in complaining during but not before illness. This suggested failure to discriminate between symptoms rather than increased sensitivity or hypochondriacal response.

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