Effects of paced respiration and expectations on physiological and psychological responses to threat

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1979 Apr;37(4):564-71. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.37.4.564.


While waiting to receive electric shocks, 105 males either (a) regulated their breathing at one half the normal rate, (b) regulated their breathing at the normal rate, or (c) did not regulate their breathing rate. Half of the subjects in each breathing condition were told that their breathing task would aid them in relaxing, whereas the other half were not given that expectation. Subjects in a no threat condition were not threatened with shocks, did not regulate their breathing, and were not provided with expectations. The results indicated that slowing respiration rate reduced physiological arousal as measured by skin resistance and finger pulse volume (but not heart rate) and reduced self-reports of anxiety. Expectations did not influence arousal. These data provide evidence for the effectiveness of paced respiration as a coping strategy, and they resolve the conflicting findings of previous investigations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Fingers / blood supply
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiration*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*