Published:  2007-11-01

Autonomic characteristics of defensive hostility: Reactivity and recovery to active and passive stressors

Authors:  Elizabeth J. Vella, Bruce H. Friedman

Tags:  Cardiovascular reactivity, Cold pressor, Defensiveness, Hostility

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The autonomic characteristics of hostility and defensiveness were assessed in 55 male undergraduates based on composite Cook Medley Hostility (Chost) and Marlowe Crowne Social Desirability (MC) scores to create 4 groups: Defensive Hostile (DH; high MC, high Chost), High Hostile (HH; low MC, high Chost), Defensive (Def; high MC, low Chost) and Low Hostile (LH; low MC, low Chost). All subjects engaged in a video game (VG) and hand cold pressor (CP) task. Cardiovascular responses in DH subjects were predicted to show enhanced sympathetic α and β-adrenergic activity and the least vagal control compared to others across tasks. DH and LH men showed significant heart rate reactivity to the CP task compared to HH men. LH men showed significant reductions in high frequency power (vagal assessment) to the tasks compared to HH men. Future studies may employ harassment techniques and include the factors of gender and ethnicity in their assessments.