Socially relevant personality traits and attenuated cardiovascular functioning
Lee, Eimear M.
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Introduction. Previous research has implicated certain personality traits in the aetiology of cardiovascular disease. One common theme in such research is that traits that impinge upon social interactions and relationships (e.g., hostility, Type A) may be especially relevant. Several patterns of cardiovascular reactivity have been found to be associated with poor future health outcomes, including exaggerated and diminished reactivity, and delayed recovery after stress. The present research examines the influence of individual differences in socially oriented traits on patterns of cardiovascular functioning in different contexts. Methods. Three empirical studies are reported. In a sample of 80 participants (60 women, 20 men), Study 1 examines the influence of broad affective personality characteristics using the NEO Five-Factor inventory, including neuroticism and extraversion subscales. Study 2 examined cardiovascular functioning during exposures to social and asocial forms of stress in a laboratory session. From a sample 94 participants (67 women, 37 men), a subsample of 44 women were included in the final analyses. Study 3 examined the effects of trait dominance on cardiovascular responses to repeated social stress exposures for 75 participants (54 women, 21 men). Results. Study 1 found that affective personality traits (neuroticism and extraversion) were associated with diurnal patterns of cardiovascular functioning. Study 2 found that lower trait dominance was associated with exaggerated cardiovascular functioning during social, but not asocial forms of stress, relative to those higher in trait dominance. Study 3 found that blunted patterns of cardiovascular functioning for those higher in trait dominance were associated with vascular profiles of hemodynamic cardiovascular responding, indicative of future ill-health. Conclusions. In sum, it was found that blunted patterns of cardiovascular functioning were associated with individual differences in personality traits related to interpersonal trait affectivity, including neuroticism, extraversion, and trait dominance. The research confirms some recent work that has established blunting as a negative cardiovascular trend, associated with aspects of cardiovascular functioning that are related to future disease risk. Additionally, individual differences in dominance were found to be associated with the identification of these potentially maladaptive physiological trends.