Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 862–877 | Cite as

The effects of implicit and explicit affiliation motives on vagal activity in motive-relevant situations

  • Elisabeth PresteleEmail author
  • Friederike X. R. Gerstenberg
  • Birk Hagemeyer
  • Fay C. M. Geisler
Original Paper


We investigated the independent and interactive effects of the implicit need for affiliation (nAFF) and the explicit self-attributed need for affiliation (sanAFF) on parasympathetic vagal activity (indexed via heart rate variability) in three motive-relevant situations: in a socioevaluative stress situation (N = 49), in a socially ambiguous situation (N = 50), and during socially supported recovery from stress (both subsamples). Vagal activity has been linked with self-regulation and social engagement. Vagal withdrawal has been found to accompany stress responses, whereas vagal advance has been found to accompany attenuated stress and affiliative behavior. Response surface analyses in the current study revealed additive but opposite effects on vagal activity for nAFF (vagal advance) and sanAFF (vagal withdrawal) during the socioevaluative stress situation, high nAFF and low sanAFF incongruence predicted vagal withdrawal in the socially ambiguous situation, and sanAFF predicted vagal advance during socially supported recovery from stress. We suggest that assessing reactions to motive-relevant stress situations represents a profitable approach for investigating the differential effects of implicit and explicit motives.


Implicit need for affiliation Explicit need for affiliation Heart rate variability Response Surface analysis Polyvagal theory 



We would like to thank Christine Altstötter-Gleich and Anette Hiemisch for valuable comments on an earlier version of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Prestele
    • 1
    Email author
  • Friederike X. R. Gerstenberg
    • 2
  • Birk Hagemeyer
    • 3
  • Fay C. M. Geisler
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  3. 3.Friedrich-Schiller-Universität JenaJenaGermany
  4. 4.University of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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