Cardiovascular response to agreement and disagreement: towards explaining the beneficial effect of social support

Joseph William Lenz
Social support has been associated with reduced mortality and morbidity from a number of causes. To assess possible mechanisms of action relating to cardiovascular (CV) responsiveness, 90 male and female university students delivered a five-minute speech on a controversial topic to a same-sex laboratory confederate. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which the confederate either (a) agreed with the subject, (b) remained impassive (neutral), or (c) disagreed with the
more » ... isagreed with the subject. Blood pressure (SBP and DBP) and heart rate (HR.) were monitored throughout the experiment. Self-report measures of state self-esteem and affective state were taken pre- and post-task, and reactions to the task were assessed with post-task self-report measures. Subjects reported strong differences in supportiveness of the confederate in the three conditions. Self-report data indicated increase in arousal during the speech (a finding synchronous with CV data), and they reported the Disagree condition to be less pleasant than the Agree condition. CV data were analyzed as a 2 x 3 (sex by experimental condition) repeated measures ANOVA assessing changes from baseline to speech task. Sex differences on CV measures matched patterns generally reported: Men had higher SBP and lower HR than women. All CV measures increased significantly and substantially during the speech task. HR was higher in the Disagree and Neutral conditions than in the Agree condition. SBP and DBP did not differ by condition. There were no sex by condition interactions; however, there was a trend towards men's HR increasing more in the neutral condition and women' more in the disagree condition. These data partially support earlier findings in similar experiments while suggesting that subtleties of context, task selection, and content of supportive interaction may have significant impact on the degree to which social support attenuates CV response to social stressors. Unanswered questions for future research are delineated, and im [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0088355 fatcat:cnofk232offq5ctsqf6qm7wmoe