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Social anxiety and cardiovascular responses to active coping conditions

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Author(s): MARGIT GRAMER

Journal: Psychology Science
ISSN 1614-9947

Volume: 48;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 39;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: Active coping | Mental stress | Social stress | Cardiovascular reactivity | Social anxiety | Social competence | Behavioral Assessment

ABSTRACT
This study assessed the influence of trait social anxiety on cardiovascular, emotional and behavioral responses to active performance situations representing social and cognitive demands. Thirty-six male and thirty-six female students categorized as either high or low in trait social anxiety performed a mental arithmetic task and two interpersonal tasks requiring persuasive behavior: Preparation and Performance of a Speech, Role-played Interpersonal Interactions. The cardiovascular effects of social anxiety varied over experimental stressors and appear to reflect differences in effort or task engagement rather than differential affective experiences. During Role-played Interactions high socially anxious subjects displayed lower increases in systolic blood pressure compared to low anxious participants. This effect was partially mediated by behavioral indicators of social competence and suggests a more inhibited coping approach of socially anxious participants. Findings for Mental Arithmetic were in the opposite direction, high socially anxious subjects displayed greater heart rate effects. In the absence of group differences in state anxiety this effect might result from stronger audience effects on effort or task motivation in socially anxious participants. These findings strengthen the view that active performance situations elicit cardiovascular effects that are largely attributable to differences in task engagement. The data also indicate the importance of considering situational factors in social anxiety research.

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