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Psychosom Med. 1997 Nov-Dec;59(6):620-5.

Active coping and cardiovascular reactivity: a multiplicity of influences.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Baltimore County 21250, USA. waldstei@umbc2.umbc.edu



Active coping enhances cardiovascular response presumably by beta-adrenergically mediated myocardial activation. This study examined impedance-derived hemodynamic parameters underlying blood pressure response to two laboratory tasks requiring active coping, performed either with or without an appetitive (i.e., monetary) incentive.


Forty-eight healthy, young men completed the Stroop Color-Word Test and Mirror Tracing. Half received no incentive, whereas half were provided with a monetary incentive as an active coping manipulation. Task-related changes in blood pressure, heart rate, systolic time intervals, and hemodynamic parameters were monitored. Psychological responses to the tasks were also obtained.


On average, incentive virtually doubled blood pressure response to both Stroop and Mirror Tracing. The change in blood pressure was explained predominantly by a concomitant increase in total peripheral resistance. Heart rate response was also enhanced substantially with incentive. Individuals in the incentive condition reported greater interest in the task, but less perceived control, than persons in the no-incentive condition.


The incentive-related increase in total peripheral resistance, combined with an absence of enhanced stroke volume, cardiac output, or preejection period response, indicates that active coping may, under certain conditions, elevate blood pressure via increased systemic resistance, presumably reflecting alpha-adrenergic activation. Furthermore, the enhanced heart rate associated with incentive may reflect a withdrawal of parasympathetic influence.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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