A study on the effects of sociotropic cognition and dysphoric mood on cardiovascular, hormonal, affect, and memory response in young women

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Randall S. Jorgensen


Sociotropic cognition, Dysphoric, Mood, Cardiovascular, Hormonal, Affect, Memory, Women

Subject Categories

Biological Psychology | Clinical Psychology | Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy | Women's Studies


Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of mortality in women, few studies have examined the role of psychosocial factors in its development. This study examined the moderating effects of sociotropic cognition (SC; a psychosocial vulnerability to depression) and mood (dysphoria) on stress-induced cardiovascular responsiveness (CVR), affect reactivity, and cortisol response in women. An examination of memory function in response to stress also was performed as part of an exploratory analysis. Sixty-eight normotensive, college-aged females participated in this study. Participants were randomly assigned to a low or high social threat condition. Measures of systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressures (SBP, DBP, and MAP respectively), heart rate (HR), cardiac output (CO), total peripheral resistance (TPR), negative affect, and salivary cortisol were collected during rest, and under conditions of high vs. low interpersonal threat. A 2-step hierarchical regression analysis was performed to predict all response variables (BPs, HR, CO, TPR, affect, cortisol, and memory parameters). It was found, first, that increases in SBP, DBP, MAP, negative affect, cortisol, and memory impairment were greater in the high threat than low threat condition. Second, it was found that changes in SBP, MAP, and TPR positively covaried with SC under conditions of high interpersonal threat, but showed no significant covariation in the low threat condition. Third, it was found that changes in TPR positively covaried with self-report of dysphoria under conditions of low, but not high interpersonal threat. Fourth, cortisol levels in the high threat condition at 30 minutes were significantly greater than in the low threat condition. SC, but not dysphoria scores were found to predict basal cortisol levels. Last, an exploratory analysis of memory parameters showed significantly lower scores in the high threat relative to low threat condition. These studies suggest that an excessive need for social acceptance may induce hypervigilance to social stressors, thus contributing to the release of humoral factors that affect BP. The data may provide a neuroendocrine link between personality/coping style, and stress reactivity in young women, and call attention to characteristics in women that predispose them to possible health risks.