RESEARCH ARTICLE


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



Margit Gramer*, Stephanie Frei
Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria


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© 2017 Gramer and Frei.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, A-8010 Graz, Austria, Tel: +43 316 380 5130; Fax: +43 316 380 9808; E-mail margit.gramer@uni-graz.at


Abstract

Background:

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.

Objective:

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.

Method:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusion:

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.