Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 216-222

First online:

Negative emotions and acute physiological responses to stress

  • Pamela J. FeldmanAffiliated withCarnegie Mellon University
  • , Sheldon CohenAffiliated withCarnegie Mellon University
  • , Stephen J. LeporeAffiliated withBrooklyn College, City University of New York
  • , Karen A. MatthewsAffiliated withUniversity of Pittsburgh
  • , Thomas W. KamarckAffiliated withUniversity of Pittsburgh
  • , Anna L. MarslandAffiliated withUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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One pathway through which stressors are thought to influence physiology is through their effects on emotion. We used meta-analytic statisitical techniques with data from nine studies to test the effects of acute laboratory stressors (speech, star mirror-image tracing, handgrip) on emotional (undifferentiated negative emotion, anger, anxiety) and cardiovascular (CV) response. In all of the studies, participants responded to stressors with both increased CV response and increased negative emotion. Increases in negative emotion were associated with increases in CV response across tasks, however, these associations were small. The range of variance accounted for was between 2% and 12%. Thus, the contribution of negative emotion, as assessed in these studies, to physiological responses to acute laboratory stressors was limited. Although these results raise questions about the role of emotion in mediating stress-elicited physiological responses, the nature of the acute laboratory stress paradigm may contribute to the lack of a strong association.