Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jillian Scheer


blood pressure;compassion;self-compassion;stress reactivity;young adults

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Excessive stress reactivity, particularly excessive blood pressure reactivity, to social-evaluative stress is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. Compassion-based interventions have demonstrated the ability to buffer against physiological and subjective stress reactivity. However, extant studies have predominantly implemented interventions requiring an intensive time commitment, limiting intervention accessibility, and no studies have measured blood pressure reactivity as a compassion-based intervention outcome. To address these gaps in the literature, this study recruited undergraduate students (n = 50), who were cluster randomized to participate in one of two possible brief (40 min), group-based interventions: (1) compassion training, or (2) an active control intervention which taught participants a skill from cognitive behavioral therapy (i.e., cognitive reappraisal). After the intervention, participants immediately underwent an acute social-evaluative stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G). State compassion for others, state self-compassion, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), heart rate (HR), and subjective stress were measured before and after the intervention to evaluate pre- to post-intervention effects. Physiological and subjective stress were also measured before, during, and after the TSST-G to evaluate stress-buffering effects of the interventions. Linear mixed models were used to examine both immediate intervention effects and stress-buffering effects. Results indicated that the brief, group-based compassion intervention demonstrated pre- to post-intervention increases in state compassion for other and decreases in SBP compared to the active control intervention, while both interventions demonstrated immediate increases in self-compassion and reductions in HR. The compassion intervention also demonstrated reduced DBP reactivity to the TSST-G compared to the control intervention. These results indicate that brief compassion training may be a promising intervention that demonstrates positive pre- to post-intervention effects and stress-buffering effects for young adults experiencing acute social-evaluative stress. These results provide impetus for incorporating compassion training in settings which serve young adults, such as college counseling centers.


Open Access