Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 252–262 | Cite as

Challenge and threat states: Cardiovascular, affective, and cognitive responses to a sports-related speech task

  • Carla MeijenEmail author
  • Marc V. Jones
  • David Sheffield
  • Paul J. McCarthy
Original Paper


This study examined the relationship among cardiovascular responses indicative of challenge and threat states, self-efficacy, perceived control, and emotions before an upcoming competition. Using a repeated-measures design, 48 collegiate athletes talked about an upcoming competition (sport-specific speech task) and the topic of friendship (control speech task), whilst cardiovascular responses (heart rate, preejection period, cardiac output, and total peripheral resistance) were collected and self-report measures of self-efficacy, perceived control, and emotions completed. Findings showed that participants with a physiological threat response reported higher levels of self-efficacy and excitement. Further, none of the other emotions or the cognitive appraisals of challenge and threat predicted cardiovascular patterns indicative of either a challenge or threat state. Thus, cardiovascular responses and self-report measures of self-efficacy, perceived control, and emotions did not correlate in the manner predicted by the theory of challenge and threat states in athletes. This finding may reflect methodological aspects, or that perhaps highly efficacious individuals believe they can perform well and so the task itself is more threatening because failure would indicate under-performance.


Cardiovascular responses Self-efficacy Control Emotion Cognitive appraisal 


  1. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (2006). Guide for constructing self-efficacy scales. In F. Pajares & T. C. Urdan (Eds.), Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents (pp. 307–337). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A., & Wood, R. (1989). Effect of perceived controllability and performance standards on self-regulation of complex decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(5), 805–814. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.56.5.805.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, J. W., & Schmidt, A. M. (2012). Taken out of context? Cross-level effects of between-person self-efficacy and difficulty on the within-person relationship of self-efficacy with resource allocation and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 119(2), 195–208. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.06.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berntson, G. G., Quigley, K. S., & Lozano, D. (2007). Cardiovascular psychophysiology. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (pp. 182–210). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blascovich, J., & Mendes, W. B. (2000). Challenge and threat appraisals: The role of affective cues. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.), Feeling and thinking: The role of affect in social cognition (pp. 59–82). Paris: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Blascovich, J., Mendes, W. B., Vanman, E., & Dickerson, S. (2011). Social psychophysiology for social and personality psychology. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  8. Blascovich, J., Seery, M. D., Mugridge, C. A., Norris, R. K., & Weisbuch, M. (2004). Predicting athletic performance from cardiovascular indexes of challenge and threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(5), 683–688. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2003.10.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blascovich, J., & Tomaka, J. (1996). The biopsychosocial model of arousal regulation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 28, 1–51. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60235-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cerin, E. (2003). Anxiety versus fundamental emotions as predictors of perceived functionality of pre-competitive emotional states, threat, and challenge in individual sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15(3), 223–238. doi: 10.1080/10413200305389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cerin, E., Szabo, A., Hunt, N., & Williams, C. (2000). Temporal patterning of competitive emotions: A critical review. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18(8), 605–626. doi: 10.1080/02640410050082314.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chalabaev, A., Major, B., Cury, F., & Sarrazin, P. (2009). Physiological markers of challenge and threat mediate the effects of performance-based goals on performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 991–994. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.04.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coffee, P., & Rees, T. (2008). Main and interactive effects of controllability and generalisability attributions upon self-efficacy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9(6), 775–785. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dickerson, S. S., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 355–391. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.3.355.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dienstbier, R. A. (1989). Arousal and physiological toughness: Implications for mental and physical health. Psychological Review, 96(1), 84–100. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.96.1.84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ennis, M., Kelly, K. S., & Lambert, P. L. (2001). Sex differences in cortisol excretion during anticipation of a psychological stressor. Possible support for the tend and-befriend hypothesis. Stress and Health, 17(4), 253–261. doi: 10.1002/smi.904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Fletcher, D., Hanton, S., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2006). An organizational stress review: Conceptual and theoretical issues in competitive sport. In S. Hanton & S. D. Mellalieu (Eds.), Literature reviews in sport psychology (pp. 321–374). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science.Google Scholar
  19. Gerin, W., Litt, M. D., Deich, J., & Pickering, T. G. (1996). Self-efficacy as a component of active coping: Effects on cardiovascular reactivity. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 40(5), 485–493. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(95)00642-7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanton, S., Neil, R., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2008). Recent developments in competitive anxiety direction and competition stress. International Review of Sport and Exercise, 1(1), 45–57. doi: 10.1080/17509840701827445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hilmert, C. J., Christenfeld, N., & Kulik, J. A. (2002). Audience status moderates the effects of social support and self-efficacy on cardiovascular reactivity during public speaking. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(2), 122–131. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2402_09.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hilmert, C., & Kvasnicka, L. (2010). Blood pressure and emotional responses to stress: Perspectives on cardiovascular reactivity. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(7), 470–483. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00275.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoyt, C. L., & Blascovich, J. (2010). The role of leadership self-efficacy and stereotype activation on cardiovascular, behavioral and self-report responses in the leadership domain. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(1), 89–103. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.10.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones, G. (1995). More than just a game: Research developments and issues in competitive anxiety in sport. British Journal of Psychology, 86(4), 449–478. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1995.tb02565.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jones, M. V., Lane, A. M., Bray, S. R., Uphill, M., & Catlin, J. (2005). Development and validation of the sport emotion questionnaire. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 27(4), 407–431. Retrieved from Scholar
  26. Jones, M. V., Meijen, C., McCarthy, P. J., & Sheffield, D. (2009). A theory of challenge and threat states in athletes. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2(2), 161–180. doi: 10.1080/17509840902829331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jones, G., & Swain, A. B. J. (1992). Intensity and direction dimensions of competitive state anxiety and relationships with competitiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 74, 467–472. doi: 10.2466/pms.1992.74.2.467.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones, G., Swain, A., & Hardy, L. (1993). Intensity and direction dimensions of competitive state anxiety and relationships with performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 11(6), 525–532. doi: 10.1080/02640419308730023.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kemeny, M. E. (2003). The psychobiology of stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 124–129. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.01246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress and emotion: A new synthesis. New York: Springer Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  31. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Meijen, C., Jones, M., McCarthy, P. J., Sheffield, D., & Allen, M. S. (2013). Cognitive and affective components of challenge and threat states. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(8), 847–855. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2012.753157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mendes, W. B., McCoy, S., Major, B., & Blascovich, J. (2008). How attributional ambiguity shapes physiological and emotional responses to social rejection and acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(2), 278–291. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.2.278.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moore, L. J., Vine, S. J., Wilson, M. R., & Freeman, P. (2012). The effects of challenge and threat states on performance: An examination of potential mechanisms. Psychophysiology, 49(10), 1417–1425. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01449.x.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schneider, T. R. (2008). Evaluations of stressful transactions: What’s in an appraisal? Stress and Health, 24(2), 151–158. doi: 10.1002/smi.1176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Seery, M. D. (2011). Challenge or threat? Cardiovascular indexes of resilience and vulnerability to potential stress in humans. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(7), 1603–1610. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.03.003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Seery, M. D., Weisbuch, M., & Blascovich, J. (2009). Something to gain, something to lose: The cardiovascular consequences of outcome framing. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 73(3), 308–312. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2009.05.006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seery, M. D., Weisbuch, M., Hetenyi, M. A., & Blascovich, J. (2010). Cardiovascular measures independently predict performance in a university course. Psychophysiology, 47(3), 535–539. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00945.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sherwood, A., Allen, M. T., Fahrenberg, J., Kelsey, R. M., Lovallo, W. R., & Van Doornen, L. J. P. (1990). Methodological guidelines for impedance cardiography. Psychophysiology, 27(1), 1–23. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1990.tb02171.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Skinner, N., & Brewer, N. (2002). The dynamics of threat and challenge appraisals prior to stressful achievement events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3), 678–692. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.83.3.678.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Skinner, N., & Brewer, N. (2004). Adaptive approaches to competition: Challenge appraisals and positive emotion. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 26(2), 283–305. Retrieved from Scholar
  42. Tomaka, J., Blascovich, J., Kibler, J., & Ernst, J. M. (1997). Cognitive and physiological antecedents of threat and challenge appraisal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 63–72. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.73.1.63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Turner, M. J., Jones, M. V., Sheffield, D., & Cross, S. L. (2012). Cardiovascular indices of challenge and threat states predict performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 86(1), 48–57. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.08.004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weisbuch, M., Seery, M. D., Ambady, N., & Blascovich, J. (2009). On the correspondence between physiological and nonverbal responses: Nonverbal behaviour accompanying challenge and threat. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 33(2), 141–148. doi: 10.1007/s10919-008-0064-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Williams, S. E., Cumming, J., & Balanos, G. M. (2010). The use of imagery to manipulate challenge and threat appraisal states in athletes. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 32(3), 339–358. Retrieved from Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla Meijen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marc V. Jones
    • 2
  • David Sheffield
    • 3
  • Paul J. McCarthy
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of KentChatham, KentUK
  2. 2.Centre for Sport, Health and Exercise ResearchStaffordshire UniversityStoke-on-TrentUK
  3. 3.Centre for Psychological ResearchUniversity of DerbyDerbyUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyGlasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgowScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations