The effect of videotapes of animals on cardiovascular responses to stress

Authors

  • Deborah L. Wells

    Corresponding author
    • Dr D.L. Wells, Canine Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 28 90 974386. Fax: +44 (0) 28 90 664144.
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Abstract

Animals have long been noted for their ability to moderate cardiovascular responses to stress. To date, however, little attention has been directed towards the ability of videotapes of animals to buffer people from challenges. This study thus explored the effect of five video conditions (fish, bird, primate, control 1 [humans], control 2 [blank screen]) on the heart rate and blood pressure of 100 volunteers before and after exposure to a cognitive stressor. Twenty participants were randomly assigned to each of the video conditions. Both the heart rate and blood pressure (diastolic and systolic) of the participants were recorded after a 10 minute period of relaxation (phase 1), following 10 minutes of exposure to the appropriate video for that condition (phase 2) and again, following a 10 minute period of reading aloud, i.e. a cognitive stressor (phase 3). The videos encouraged relaxation, with participants in all conditions exhibiting significantly (p < 0.001) lower levels of heart rate and blood pressure in phase 2 than phases 1 or 3. Individuals exposed to the videos of birds, fish and primates showing significantly (p < 0.001) lower levels of heart rate and blood pressure in phase 3 than individuals exposed to the control videos. It is concluded that videotapes of certain animals can reduce cardiovascular responses to psychological stress and may help to buffer viewers from anxiety, at least in the short term. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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