Cardiovascular reactivity, stress, and personal emotional salience: Choose your tasks carefully.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Both greater cardiovascular reactivity and lesser reactivity ("blunting") to laboratory stressors are linked to poor health outcomes, including among people who have a history of traumatic experiences. In a sample of recently separated and divorced adults (N = 96), this study examined whether differences in cardiovascular reactivity might be explained by differences in the personal emotional salience of the tasks and trauma history. Participants were assessed for trauma history, current distress related to their marital dissolution, and cardiovascular reactivity during two tasks, a serial subtraction math stressor task and a divorce-recall task. Participants with a greater trauma history evidenced less blood pressure reactivity to the serial subtraction task (a low personal emotional salience task) when compared to participants with less trauma history. In contrast, participants with a greater trauma history evidenced higher blood pressure reactivity to the divorce-recall task, but only if they also reported more divorce-related distress (high personal emotional salience). These associations were not significant for heart rate reactivity. Among people with a history of more traumatic experiences, a task with low personal salience was associated with a lower blood pressure response, whereas a task with higher personal emotional salience was associated with a higher blood pressure response. Future studies examining cardiovascular reactivity would benefit from determining the personal emotional salience of tasks, particularly for groups that have experienced stressful life events or trauma.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bourassa, KJ; Sbarra, DA

Published Date

  • August 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 59 / 8

Start / End Page

  • e14037 -

PubMed ID

  • 35292974

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9283235

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1540-5958

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0048-5772

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/psyp.14037


  • eng