Gender-Related Psychological Characteristics and Situational Determinants of Psychophysiological Stress Reactivity1

Authors

  • Olga Evans,

    1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health University College London London, United Kingdom
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Andrew Steptoe

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health University College London London, United Kingdom
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew Steptoe, Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • 1

    This research was carried out while the authors were with the Department of Psychology, St. George's Hospital Medical School, University of London, United Kingdom. Olga Evans is now with the Office of National Statistics, London, United Kingdom. Andrew Steptoe is now with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, United Kingdom. This research was supported by the Medical Research Council, United Kingdom.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew Steptoe, Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom.

Abstract

This study examined the influence of gender-related psychological characteristics and situational demands on physiological and affective responses to stressful tasks. While physiological and affective responses were monitored, 44 medical students (26 men, 18 women) performed an emotion-oriented speech task and an action-oriented speech in a counterbalanced design. Conventionally masculine instrumental and feminine expressive characteristics were measured using the Personal Attributes Questionnaire. Systolic blood pressure and respiratory reactions to the action-oriented task were positively associated with expressivity. Expressivity was also associated with greater subjective tension during the action-oriented task, and with perceptions of greater task difficulty. The results are consistent with the notion that physiological and affective stress reactions in men and women are determined in part by traditionally gender-related psychological characteristics, with greater reactions when the situational demands are not congruent with preferred modes of behavior.

Ancillary