, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 9-18
Date: 16 Oct 2013

Cardiovascular Effects of Acute Positive Emotional Arousal

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Abstract

Since there are several popular beliefs about putative health benefits of amusement which are empirically substantiated poorly about putative health benefits of amusement, the immediate cardiovascular effects of amusement were studied in detail. Cardiovascular activity was studied while participants were viewing humorous films, relative to a control condition involving no amusement. High-resolution measures of heart rate, heart rate variability, continuous blood pressure, and respiration were recorded, and the phase synchronization among the variables was analyzed, which provides information on the coordinated behavior of response systems. Viewing humorous films had cardiovascular effects indicating heightened sympathetic arousal, if they elicited intense amusement. No effects were observed for variables indicating parasympathetic input to the heart. The observed effects associated with amusement were not driven by changes in the respiration. The suppression of positive affect expressions did not produce any additional activation. The transient cardiovascular effects of amusement do not correspond to beneficial correlates of a habitual positive affect disposition reported in the literature, demonstrating that it would be erroneous to argue from the long-term effects of a positive affect disposition to the effects of a single amusing event.