The Psychological Record

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 451–457 | Cite as

Optimism and Distractibility in Cardiovascular Reactivity

  • Robert D. Williams
  • Alicia G. Riels
  • Kimberly A. Roper


This study investigated the role of optimism (OP) and distraction in cardiovascular reactivity; it also assessed the relationship between hostility, as measured by the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale (Ho), and OP. Fifty-six students formed two groups of high optimistic (HIOP) and low optimistic (LOWOP) subjects based upon scores on the Life Orientation Test (LOT). One half of the subjects in each group were randomly assigned to a distractor (DIS) or a nondistractor (NODIS) condition. All groups participated in two consecutive laboratory challenges, a Mental Arithmetic (MA) task and Simon Says game (SIM). Subjects in the two DIS groups were given both stress tasks coupled with an intermittent, auditory distractor, whereas the two NODIS groups received each stress task with white noise only. Systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure and heart rate (HR) were recorded before, during, and after stress. Results indicated that (a) pessimists displayed greater DBP reactivity to the MA task than did optimists (p <.01), (b) pessimism was significantly associated with increased Ho (p <.02), and (c) pessimists reported reliably more fatigue (p <.05) and anxiety (p <.04) than did optimists. Results were interpreted within a vigilance-reactivity framework.


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Williams
    • 1
  • Alicia G. Riels
    • 1
  • Kimberly A. Roper
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Central ArkansasConwayUSA

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