Self-Focus and Cardiovascular Effects of Stressor Anticipation and Active Coping: The Moderating Influence of Trait Social Anxiety

The Open Psychology Journal 29 May 2017 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874350101710010061



Self-focused attention has been found to facilitate task engagement and cardiac activity in active performance situations. According to theories on self-awareness this facilitating effect might be confined to individuals with favorable outcome expectancies, though.


To provide information on this issue, the present study evaluated the moderating influence of trait social anxiety, a dispositional indicator of impaired confidence. In extension of prior research, effects of enhanced self-awareness were assessed during both anticipation and performance of an active social stressor.


Sixty normotensive female students characterized as either high or low in trait social anxiety engaged in an evaluative speaking task either in the context of high or low self-awareness.


The moderating influence of social anxiety was found to vary with type of demand. During passive stressor anticipation, self-focus augmented distress-related vascular reactivity in high but not in low socially anxious individuals. During speech preparation self-focus was found to facilitate task engagement and cardiac reactivity in low socially anxious individuals, whereas high anxious showed some withdrawal. Greater self-awareness during speech performance elicited cardiac increases in both social anxiety groups. However, among high anxious individuals this sustained engagement was accompanied by increased negative affect and negative self-evaluations.


These findings seem to suggest that only in high socially anxious individuals heightened self-awareness may contribute to dysfunctional cardiovascular and psychological processes.

Keywords: Self-focused attention, Social anxiety, Cognitive appraisals, Cardiovascular reactivity, Stressor anticipation, Active coping.
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