, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 277-285

Social evaluation influence on cardiovascular response to a fixed behavioral challenge: Effects across a range of difficulty levels

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Participants performed five memory tasks—ranging in difficulty from very low to very high—under public or private conditions. The publicity and difficulty variables interacted to determine systolic pressure and heart rate responses during performance. Where performance was public, responsiveness on the parameters increased with difficulty to a point and then dropped; where performance was private, responsiveness was relatively low at all difficulty levels. Diastolic pressure responses were configured similarly, although in that case the interaction was not reliable. Findings corroborate and extend results from a previous study, argue against some explanations of those results, and strengthen the case for a recent active coping analysis of cardiovascular audience effects. Findings also strengthen the case for a broader model of effort and cardiovascular response, which has potential for advancing our understanding of a range of phenomena and processes related to behavior and health.