Repressors vs. Low- and High-Anxious Coping Styles: EEG, Heart Rate, and Blood Pressure Differences During Cognitive and Cold Pressor Pain Stressors
Vendemia, Jennifer Mary Coplin
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Repressors, defined as individuals possessing an increased cortical sensitivity to anxiety-provoking stimuli combined with the tendency to avoid such stimuli, may be differentiated from low- and high-anxious individuals. This study investigated behavioral performance, electrophysiological reactivity (EEG), and cardiovascular reactivity (heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure) in three major coping style groups (repressors, low-anxious, and high-anxious) during low and high stressful conditions. Conditions were rest, cognitive stress (computerized Stroop Interference Task, with and without negative emotional stimuli), and physiological stress (cool water vs. ice cold water left hand immersions). Participants were 49 healthy, right handed university undergraduate women, chosen with Weinberger et al.'s (1979) criteria according to their differentially extreme scores on the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale and the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Scale. Although mixed, findings supported the proposal that these three groups utilize differential attentional strategies and interpretive biases during both neutral and negative stimuli. In the word interference Stroop condition, reaction times (RTs) were longer for negative than neutral stimuli. Unexpected RT differences occurred in low and high error groups across the three coping styles. High error scoring repressors had longer RTs than low error/low-anxious; high-anxious/low error and high-anxious/high error groups did not differ. Repressors perceived the cold water as being less distressful and painful than the low- and high-anxious groups. No heart rate differences occurred. Diastolic and systolic blood pressure increased following cool and cold water immersion. Unexpectedly, the high-anxious group exhibited significantly lower diastolic blood pressure than the other groups, both at rest and following the stressors. EEG activation pattern differences were observed. During anticipation for cool immersion, in comparison to the high-anxious group, repressor and low-anxious groups showed less right parietal involvement suggestive of less arousal (Heller, 1993). During cool water immersion, frontal and parietal differences were observed across groups. During the Stroop Interference Task, repressors showed greater right frontal involvement than other groups. The data are most supportive of Eysenck and Derakshan's (1997) four-factor theory that proposes differential and attentional biases for these three groups. Suggestions for future research and practical applications in health fields are discussed.
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