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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2010 Mar;10(1):71-82. doi: 10.3758/CABN.10.1.71.

Automatic emotional information processing and the cortisol response to acute psychosocial stress.

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Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Attentional shifting may represent a means of regulating the stress response. Previously, automatic processing of emotional information was predictive of subsequent cortisol levels during a repeated loss stressor (Ellenbogen, Schwartzman, Stewart, & Walker, 2006). The stress induction did not, however, elicit a substantive cortisol increase. Thus, we sought to replicate this finding using the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a validated psychosocial stress induction. Seventy-nine students performed a modified spatial cuing task with supraliminal and masked pictorial stimuli during the TSST (n = 36) and a control condition (n = 43). The TSST elicited a greater cortisol response than did the control condition [F(1,76) = 4.6, p < .05]. Attentional shifting during trials with masked angry faces predicted cortisol change during the TSST (beta = .76; t = 2.1, p < .05), but not during the control condition. These data suggest that early automatic emotional information processing is important in the regulation of the cortisol stress response, although the direction of effect is not known.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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