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Gender determination of effort and associated cardiovascular responses: When men place greater value on available performance incentives


  • This article is based on a Master's thesis submitted to the Medical Psychology Program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), prepared under supervision of Rex Wright. We are grateful to Sara Walker, Sarah Khalidi, and William B. Ford for the help that they provided with data collection. A portion of the manuscript was prepared while Rex Wright was on sabbatical in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin.

Address correspondence to: Patricia Barreto, Department of Psychology, UAB, 415 Campbell Hall, 1300 University Boulevard, Birmingham, Alabama, 35294, USA. E-mail:


Participants were presented an easy or difficult mental addition task and led to believe that they could win a traditionally masculine incentive by meeting a certain performance standard. As expected, blood pressure and heart rate responses during the work period were stronger under difficult conditions than easy ones among men but low under both difficulty conditions among women. Findings support the suggestion from a conceptual analysis grounded in motivation intensity theory that gender differences in cardiovascular response could be partially understood in terms of effort processes that occur where men and women place different value on available performance incentives.