Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Moderators of Cognitive Appraisal and Cardiovascular Reactivity
James Blascovich Principal Investigator
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ABSTRACT The precipitation of arousal as well as its maintenance, reduction, and enhancement are the focus of arousal regulation theories in the fields of personality, social psychology, and psychophysiology. Arousal regulation theories in these fields have advanced markedly over the last three decades reflecting increased theoretical and methodological sophistication. Yet, these advances have occurred relatively independently. Because arousal regulation processes are multiply determined, integration of diverse theories and methods should advance understanding of arousal regulation processes substantially. This research will examine the viability of the biopsychosocial (BPS) arousal regulation model. The BPS model is applicable to a broad range of arousal-based psychological phenomena and behaviors. Recent BPS research has demonstrated consistently that cognitive appraisal of potentially evocative situations mediates physiological responses such that challenge appraisals result in increased myocardial reactivity and threat appraisals in increased vascular reactivity. These data represent the first demonstration of the fractionation of cardiovascular responses as a function of categorically different appraisals of an active coping task. This research will help disentangle apparently conflicting literatures linking cardiovascular reactivity to both performance increments and increased risk for heart disease. The experimental tests of the BPS model proposed are based on theoretical and empirical work from diverse areas including affect, self-esteem, and mere presence. A series of five experiments employing both self-report and physiological measures will examine intrapersonal and interpersonal variable moderating cognitive appraisal and autonomic reactivity as specified in the BPS model. The results of this research will not only have important implications for the BPS model but also for theory and research in the domains of the moderating variables (e.g., affect and self- esteem) themselves. In addition, the results of the research will have direct implications for cardiovascular and mental health.