• Defensiveness;
  • Stress reactivity/recovery;
  • Blood pressure;
  • Heart rate variability;
  • Cortisol;
  • Sex differences


The association between defensiveness and physiological responses to stress were evaluated in 81 healthy working men and 118 women, aged 20 to 64 years (M=41; SD=11.45). Participants underwent laboratory testing during which they were exposed to interpersonal stressors. Heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure (BP), and salivary cortisol were measured. Defensiveness was evaluated using the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. In women, higher defensiveness was associated with greater BP and HR reactivity to stress (p<.05). In older men, lower defensiveness was associated with increased systolic BP reactivity to stress (p<.02), delayed HRV recovery (p<.02), and greater salivary cortisol levels (p<.02). In conclusion, greater defensiveness was associated with increased reactivity to stress in women whereas in older men, lower defensiveness was associated with elevated cardiovascular, autonomic, and endocrine responses to stress.