Effects of Control Over Aversive Stimulation and Type A Behavior on Cardiovascular and Plasma Catecholamine Responses

Richard J. Contrada, David C. Glass, Lawrence R. Krakoff, David S. Krantz, Kathleen Kehoe, William Isecke, Carla Collins, Ellen Elting

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72 Scopus citations


Cardiovascular, plasma catecholamine, and behavioral effects of control over aversive events were studied in 87 Type A and B male adults. Subjects performed a choice reaction time (RT) task during which they received loud noise bursts and/or electric shocks on designated trials. About half of the cases were told they could avoid noise and shock by attaining a predetermined criterion of RT speed (Contingency). The remaining half were instructed that noxious stimulation would be delivered randomly, irrespective of their performance (No Contingency). Half of the cases in each treatment were exposed to high frequency of aversive stimulation (High FAS), whereas the remaining half received low frequency of such stimulation (Low FAS). Within Contingency, High and Low FAS were designed to signify failure and success, respectively. Aversive stimulation in No Contingency was gratuitous and, therefore, did not convey information about performance. Relative to No Contingency, the Contingency treatment induced greater increases in RT speed, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and plasma epinephrine. Differential FAS did not potentiate these differences. It also was found that the Type A subjects had higher systolic blood pressure and heart rate responses than Type B's. The prediction that Contingency (particularly with High FAS) would elicit greater physiologic and behavioral hyperresponsiveness in A's than B's received some support in the data for RT speed and plasma NE. Findings were discussed in terms of sympathetic activation of hemodynamic changes under conditions of active coping. Consideration was given to the role of the sympathetic nervous system and Type A behavior in cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-419
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1982


  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Control
  • Coping
  • Heart rate
  • Plasma catecholamines
  • Reaction time
  • Stress
  • Success/Failure
  • Type A behavior


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