Heart Rate Variability Differences among Participants with Different Levels of Self-Criticism during Exposure to a Guided Imagery

  • Júlia HalamováEmail author
  • Martin Kanovský
  • Jana Koróniová
Original Article



Our goal was to investigate the heart rate variability differences among participants with different levels of self-criticism during exposure to self-critical, self-protective, and self-compassionate guided imagery.


Convenience sample of 89 psychology students was collected with the provision of course credits. The participants underwent measurement of heart rate variability during the guided imagery and completed the Forms of Self-Criticising/Attacking and Self-Reassuring Scale to size their level of self-criticism.


There were significant heart rate variability differences among participants with low and high levels of self-criticism in all relaxation baseline and three parts of the imagery. High self-critical participants were more distressed during the whole imagery compared to participants with low level of self-criticism. In addition, there was overall significant difference between all three imageries. Not surprisingly, the highest heart rate variability was found during the imagery self-compassionate part as we had expected.


The level of self-criticism plays important role in the adjustment of physiological responses to distress. The findings brought a little light into possible diagnostics of high and low self-critical people on the basis of physiological measures without relying only on self-rating scales in future.


Self-compassion Self-protection Self-criticism Heart rate variability Imagery 



We would like to acknowledge Slovak Academy of Sciences for borrowing BIOPAC.

Availability of Data and Materials

In order to comply with the ethics approvals of the study protocols, data cannot be made accessible through a public repository. However, data are available upon request for researchers who consent to adhering to the ethical regulations for confidential data.

Author Contributions

JH and JK designed research project, JH coordinated research team. JK collected data. MK performed the statistical analysis. JH, JK and MK wrote the first draft of the article. All authors JH, JK, and MK interpreted the results, revised the manuscript and read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding Information

Writing this work was supported by the Vedecká grantová agentúra VEGA under Grant 1/0075/19.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no potential conflicts of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants 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

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Applied Psychology, Faculty of Social and Economic SciencesComenius University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovakia
  2. 2.Institute of Social Anthropology, Faculty of Social and Economic SciencesComenius University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovakia
  3. 3.Institute of Experimental Psychology, Centre of Social and Psychological SciencesS.A.ScBratislavaSlovakia

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