Masked affective stimuli moderate task difficulty effects on effort-related cardiovascular response


  • This research was supported by a research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 100014-122604/1) awarded to the second author. We would like to thank Camila Fernandez Lyng for her help as hired experimenter and Laure Freydefont and Ruta Lasauskaite for helpful comments on this manuscript.

Address correspondence to: Nicolas Silvestrini or Guido H. E. Gendolla, Geneva Motivation Lab, University of Geneva, FPSE, Department of Psychology, Blvd. du Pont d'Arve 40, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. E-mail: or


This experiment investigated the combined effect of masked affective stimuli and task difficulty on effort-related cardiovascular response. Cardiovascular reactivity (ICG, blood pressure) was recorded during a baseline period and performance of an easy or difficult attention task in which participants were exposed to masked sad vs. happy facial expressions. As expected, participants in the sad-faces/easy and happy-faces/difficult conditions showed stronger sympathetic nervous system discharge to the heart and vasculature—shorter preejection period, higher systolic blood pressure—indicating more effort than participants in the sad-faces/difficult and happy-faces/easy conditions. Total peripheral resistance reacted similarly as preejection period and systolic blood pressure. The findings are compatible with the effects of consciously experienced affect on effort-related cardiovascular response.