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The effects of facial expressivity and cognitive attention on response to stress : comparisons of facial expressivity and cognitive attention, of natural and instructed strategies, and of concurrent and resultant reactions

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Bakker, GM ORCID: 0000-0003-0826-4978 1984 , 'The effects of facial expressivity and cognitive attention on response to stress : comparisons of facial expressivity and cognitive attention, of natural and instructed strategies, and of concurrent and resultant reactions', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Previous research on the effect of facial expressivity upon autonomic and self-reported arousal to stress has found an inverse relationship when data from observations of natural responses are correlated, supporting the Discharge theories of emotion, and a positive relationship when expressivity is experimentally manipulated, supporting the Proprioceptive theories of emotion. The present review suggested that if the concept of discharge is assumed to refer to a proportional decrease in arousal over time, rather than an inverse relationship among concurrent modes of response, then the dichotomy in previous findings will disappear when expressive and autonomic measures are taken at exactly the same time (concurrent effects), thereby avoiding the effects of discharge phenomena (resultant effects).
Similarly, while instructions to cognitively attend to a threat have consistently resulted in greater autonomic or self-reported arousal, studies observing the relationship between natural cognitive attention/avoidance and such arousal have produced mixed results. It has been suggested that an overriding variable such as level of perceived threat may in natural conditions simultaneously affect attention and subjective anxiety in opposite directions. The same issue of confusion of discharge effects may however also be relevant here.
This investigation therefore sought to compare the effects of natural and manipulated cognitive and expressive behaviour on clearly distinguished concurrent and resultant indices of arousal.
It was also possible to assess the possibility that natural expressive or cognitive tendencies affect response to instructions in each respective area.
Finally, several authors have discussed the possibility that either concurrent uncontrolled expression or cognitive behaviour could explain the results of studies manipulating or observing the other. Therefore, the relative impact of simultaneous cognitive and facial activity was assessed.
Four trials of electric shock with 20 second warning were administered to 24 subjects under no specific coping instructions (Part One). In each case this was followed by eight trials under instructions to facially express and cognitively attend, express and avoid, hide and attend, or hide and avoid (Part Two). In both parts anticipatory self-reported anxiety, heart rate increase, respiration rate increase, and SC increase from baseline were measured (concurrent indices), as were change in heart rate, respiration rate, and SC from anticipatory to postshock levels (resultant indices). In Part One anticipatory cognitive attention/avoidance was assessed by questionnaire, and facial expression for the same period by raters of video recordings. Degree of compliance with facial and cognitive instructions in Part Two was determined by these same means.
Both cognitive attention and facial expression were found to be effective in altering concurrent and resultant indices of arousal. However, neither mode of response emerged as a more direct or potent determinant of autonomic and self-reported arousal.
While expressing and attending were associated with greater concurrent arousal, both activities were followed by less resultant arousal. The concept of discharge of arousal over time was supported.
Natural and instructed strategies, whether expressive or cognitive, had parallel effects. It is suggested that this finding resulted due to the clear distinguishing of concurrent and resultant indices, thus avoiding the methodological problems of past studies.
Finally, compliance with cognitive and facial instructions was found to vary according to subjects' natural tendencies toward the respective activities. Effects of these disparities on arousal patterns were not detected, perhaps due to the subtlety of such secondary effects among only 24 subjects.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Bakker, GM
Keywords: Stress (Psychology), Stress (Physiology)
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Copyright 1983 the author

Additional Information:

Thesis (MPsych)--University of Tasmania, 1984

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