The relationship between cardiovascular responses in the laboratory and in the field

D W Johnston, P Anastasiades, C Wood, Derek Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The psychophysiological responses to laboratory stressors are often examined because it is believed that such responses relate to responsiveness in real life situations. This belief has seldom been tested. The changes in heart rate, pulse transit time, and respiration rate produced by a variety of laboratory tasks (active and passive coping and physical exercise) were related to ambulatory measures of heart rate in 32 young men. The field measures were the difference in heart rate between the waking day and when asleep, and estimates of the variability of heart rate during the day, derived from time series analyses. Average changes in heart rate and pulse transit time during specific tasks did not relate consistently to heart rate in the field. However, an active coping index, derived from the ratio of the peak heart rate during an active coping task to the peak during physical exercise related to all the field measures of heart rate responsiveness. This index, which may relate to measures of additional heart rate and heightened sympathetic response to stress, also correlated positively with Trait Anxiety and elevated basal sympathetic arousal, as measured by skin conductance level. Measures of the cardiovascular response to a passive coping task, the cold pressor, and exercise did not relate to heart rate responses in the field. The findings suggest that heightened cardiac responsiveness in real life is exhibited by subjects who show elevated peak responses to active coping stressors specifically.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1990


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Cold Temperature
  • Exercise
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Pulse
  • Sleep
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Wakefulness


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