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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Roger Katz

First Committee Member

Kenneth L. Beauchamp

Second Committee Member

Esther A. Cohen


Because it is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, cardiovascular reactivity has been the subject of much research. Interestingly, however, psychological variables that influence the assessment of cardiovascular reactivity have received little attention. This is a noteworthy omission because studies in this area could shed light on variables that influence reactivity and/or interfere with accurate measurement of heart rate and blood pressure changes. To help remedy this deficit, the present study examined the effects of two psychological variables, expectancy and suggestibility, on the assessment of cardiovascular reactivity to a mental arithmetic challenge. The study used a split plot factorial design (SPF 22.3). The expectancy manipulation had two levels, positive and negative. The suggestibility manipulation also had two levels, high suggestibility and low suggestibility. There were three trials consisting of baseline, presentation of the stressor, and a posttask recovery period. Sixty-eight participants were given the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale, and were assigned to high and low groups based on a median split. Next, they were randomly assigned to either the positive or negative expectancy group. Participants in all four groups were then given the same mental arithmetic challenge. Cardiovascular reactivity was measured by changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Results failed to show a significant main effect for either the expectancy or suggestibility manipulations. The interaction effects were also not significant. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed.



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