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. 2016 Aug 2;11(8):e0160340.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160340. eCollection 2016.

Perfectionism and Effort-Related Cardiac Activity: Do Perfectionists Try Harder?

Free PMC article

Perfectionism and Effort-Related Cardiac Activity: Do Perfectionists Try Harder?

Kelly L Harper et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Do perfectionists try harder? Previous research on perfectionism and effort has used self-report items and task performance as indicators of effort. The current study investigated whether individual differences in perfectionism predicted effort-related cardiac activity during a mental effort task. Based on past research that suggests adaptive perfectionism is associated with higher effort, it was hypothesized that self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) would predict increased effort on the task. One hundred and eleven college students completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS) and a self-paced parity task in which they received a small cash reward (3 cents) for each correct response. Impedance cardiography was used to assess autonomic reactivity, and regression models tested whether SOP and socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) explained autonomic reactivity. Overall, participants showed both sympathetic (faster pre-ejection period; PEP) and parasympathetic activation (elevated high-frequency heart rate variability; HRV) during the task, reflecting higher effort and engagement. Contrary to predictions, individual differences in perfectionism did not moderate cardiac reactivity. These findings draw attention to the importance of assessing physiological components of effort and motivation directly rather than inferring them from task performance or self-reported effort.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Grant support

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award number R15MH079374. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.