Type A personality and heart rate perception
Essau, Cecilia Ahmoi
Master of Arts
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The present study sought to replicate previous findings on the discrepancy between Type A's self-reporting of stress and their physiological arousal. An attempt was also made to clarify whether this discrepancy was due to A's inability to detect their heart rate changes, or simply due to their "attentional style". Twenty-eight A's and twenty-eight B's were selected from 200 male Introductory Psychology students on the basis of extreme scores on the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS). After a 5-minute rest period, subjects were asked to estimate their heart rates, after which they were given feedback. Two minutes later, they were again asked to estimate their heart rates. The subsequent session was the limit period where the subjects were presented with taperecorded string of digits of increasing length until they reached their own limit. Subjects then performed a digit recall task twice: under instructions to concentrate hard on the task to maximize performance or to focus on their heart rate during the task performance. The order of these two instructions was randomly assigned to each subject. Upon completion of each task, the subjects estimated their heart rates during the digit recall. They also completed the anxiety scale from the Multiple Affect Adjective Check List (MAACL) and a self-report questionnaire. Actual heart rate was recorded throughout the experimental session. The results indicated that A*s manifested greater heart rate increases than B's during the task, but no differences were noted in their anxiety scores on the MAACL, thus, replicating the previous reported discrepancy. Contrary to expectation. Type A subjects were found to significantly over-estimate their heart rates, compared to Type B's, both at rest and during the task performance. Feedback significantly improved Type A's accuracy of their heart rate estimation, although attention-directing instructions had no effect in either A's or B's. The findings of the present study are difficult to reconcile with the suggestion that A's do not report higher stress because they under-estimate their level of physiological arousal.