The impact of physical proximity and attachment working models on cardiovascular reactivity: Comparing mental activation and romantic partner presence
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Psychol
heart rate variability
social baseline theory
MetadataShow full item record
CitationBourassa, KJ, Ruiz, JM, Sbarra, DA. The impact of physical proximity and attachment working models on cardiovascular reactivity: Comparing mental activation and romantic partner presence. Psychophysiology. 2019; 56:e13324. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13324
Rights© 2019 Society for Psychophysiological Research
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AbstractClose relationships, especially high-quality romantic relationships, are consistently associated with positive physical health outcomes. Attenuated cardiovascular reactivity is one physiological mechanism implicated in explaining these effects. Drawing on attachment and social baseline theories, this experimental study evaluated two potential affiliative cues as mechanisms through which romantic relationships may attenuate cardiovascular reactivity to a laboratory-based stressor. Prior to a cold pressor task, 102 participants were randomly assigned to either have their partner physically present, call upon a mental representation of their partner, or think about their day during the stressor. Consistent with our preregistered hypotheses, participants in both the partner present and mental activation conditions had significantly lower blood pressure (BP) reactivity during the cold pressor task compared to control participants for both systolic (d = -0.54) and diastolic BP (d = -0.53), but no significant differences emerged for heart rate or heart rate variability. Although participants in the partner present and mental activation conditions had similar BP reactivity to the cold pressor task, those in the partner present condition reported significantly less pain as a result of the task. The difference in BP reactivity by condition was moderatedBP reactivity was greater for people with lower self-reported relationship satisfaction. The results suggest that accessing the mental representation of a romantic partner and a partner's presence each buffer against exaggerated acute stress responses to a similar degree. Romantic relationships are associated with positive physical health, and cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) is one mechanism that may explain these effects. The current study provided evidence that having a partner present or imagining a partner's support resulted in significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to people thinking about their day. Results suggest that accessing the mental representation of a romantic partner and a partner's presence reduces CVR to stressful tasks in a similar way.
Note12 month embargo; published online: 4 January 2019
VersionFinal accepted manuscript
SponsorsUniversity of Arizona Graduate and Professional Student Council [RSRCH-205FY'18]
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