Veridicality of cognitive mapping of stressor effects: Sex differences1


  • Richard W. J. Neufeld

    1. Department of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario
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    • Requests for reprints should be sent to Richard W. J. Neufeld, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2.

  • 1

    This study was supported by Canada Council Grant S-75-1314. Thanks are extended to Ruth Gilliland for her assistance in data collection.


In order to examine the veracity of judgment-questionnaire data regarding the effects of confronting a stressor in various contexts, judgments based on the imagined consequences of these encounters were scaled for both male and female subjects using individual-differences multidimensional scaling analyses. A parallel experiment was then carried out where a second group of subjects were directly exposed to the spectrum of stressor-context combinations previously judged. The two experiments substantially differed with respect to the inferences suggested by their results: while there were no apparent sex differences in the configuration of judgment responses, there were appreciable sex differences in response to the direct stress; other effects were predicted according to the judgment-scaling results but were not obtained upon direct stressor exposure. The study extended past results of equivocal veracity of conclusions drawn from personality questionnaires, ratings and inventories to the domain of stress reactions.

The role of antecedent cognitive structuring of threatening situations along stress-relevant dimensions in determining response to direct threat was discussed. Discussion also focused on the configuration of sex differences over the several measures of response to the direct stressor. It was suggested that the stressor was more potent for females leading to increased cognitive coping efforts on their part. The effect of these efforts was the eventual reduction of their subjective stress to the level of that displayed by male.