Cardiovascular and psychological reactivity and recovery from harassment in a biracial sample of high and low hostile men and women

Int J Behav Med. 2011 Mar;18(1):52-64. doi: 10.1007/s12529-010-9110-0.


Background: This study emphasizes the importance of studying the emotional, motivational, and cognitive characteristics accompanying and the potential hemodynamic mechanisms underlying cardiovascular reactivity to and recovery from interpersonal conflict.

Purpose: The relation of dispositional hostility to cardiovascular reactivity during a frustrating anagram task and post-task recovery was investigated.

Methods: The sample was composed of 99 healthy participants (age, 18-30 years; 53% women; 51% Caucasian; 49% African American)-half randomly assigned to a harassment condition. High and low hostility groups were created by a median split specific to sex and race subgroup score distributions on the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale. It was hypothesized that hostility would interact with harassment such that harassed, high hostile individuals would display the greatest cardiovascular and emotional reactivity and slowest recovery of the four groups. Participants completed a 10-min baseline, a 6-min anagram task, and a 5-min recovery period with blood pressure, heart rate, pre-ejection period, stroke index, cardiac index, and total peripheral resistance index measured.

Results: Harassed participants displayed significantly greater cardiovascular responses and lower positive affect to the task and slower systolic blood pressure (SBP) recovery than did nonharassed participants. The high hostile group, irrespective of harassment, showed blunted cardiovascular responses during the task and delayed SBP recovery than the low hostile group.

Conclusion: Although the predicted interaction between hostility and harassment was not supported in the context of cardiovascular responses, such an interaction was observed in the context of blame attributions, whereby harassed hostile participants were found to blame others for their task performance than the other subgroups.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anger / physiology
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Female
  • Frustration
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Hostility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*