Variability in emotional responsiveness and coping style during active avoidance as a window onto psychological vulnerability to stress.
Individual differences in coping styles are associated with psychological vulnerability to stress. Recent animal research suggests that coping styles reflect trade-offs between proactive and reactive threat responses during active avoidance paradigms, with proactive responses associated with better stress tolerance. Based on these preclinical findings, we developed a novel instructed active avoidance paradigm to characterize patterns of proactive and reactive responses using behavioral, motoric, and autonomic measures in humans. Analyses revealed significant inter-individual variability not only in the magnitude of general emotional responsiveness but also the likelihood to specifically express proactive or reactive responses. In men but not women, individual differences in general emotional responsiveness were linked to increased trait anxiety while proactive coping style was linked to increased trait aggression. These patterns are consistent with preclinical findings and suggest that instructed active avoidance paradigms may be useful in assessing psychological vulnerability to stress using objective behavioral measures.
Gorka, AX; LaBar, KS; Hariri, AR
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