Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Felver, Joshua C.


self-compassion, stress, stress reactivity

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology


Contemplative psychological traits (e.g., mindfulness and self-compassion) have become a popular area of research in recent years, often in the context of their influence on stress (Creswell & Lindsay, 2014). One promising subset of contemplative science research demonstrates that higher levels of contemplative traits are associated with decreased physiological stress reactivity during psychosocial stress induction. This is important due to the negative health outcomes that are associated with persistently heightened stress reactivity. Research investigating self-compassion has demonstrated that higher levels of trait self-compassion are associated with lower levels of stress reactivity (Breines et al., 2015; Luo et al., 2018). Currently, this area of research is limited to stress induction studies, which can be costly and time-consuming. A cross-sectional self-report measure of stress reactivity, the Perceived Stress Reactivity Scale (PSRS; Schlotz et al., 2013) was recently developed and validated, but it has not yet been examined in relation to trait self-compassion. To evaluate whether self-compassion may be an intervention target to buffer against stress reactivity, it would be helpful to establish how it is related to the PSRS. Thus, this study investigated whether trait levels of self-compassion significantly account for variance in a regression model with self-reported stress reactivity as the dependent variable, while controlling for state stress levels. It also investigated whether self-compassion moderates the relation between state stress and self-reported stress reactivity. Planned post-hoc analyses were conducted to examine these same analyses with each specific subscale of the PSRS (i.e., Prolonged Reactivity, Reactivity to Work Overload, Reactivity to Social Evaluation, Reactivity to Social Conflict, and Reactivity to Failure). Results indicate that self-compassion significantly accounted for variance in total stress reactivity while controlling for state stress, but it did not moderate the relation between state stress and total stress reactivity. Post-hoc analyses demonstrated that self-compassion significantly accounted for variance in stress reactivity measured via each specific subscale while controlling for state stress. When the Reactivity to Social Evaluation subscale score was the dependent variable, self-compassion accounted for more variance than any other subscale. Further, the post-hoc moderation analyses were only significant for self-compassion moderating the relation between state stress and Reactivity to Social Evaluation, indicating that self-compassion may confer unique stress-buffering properties during social-evaluative situations (e.g., job interviews). Limitations of this study included having a well-educated, upper middle class sample population, the inability to determine causality from a cross-sectional design. Recommendations for future research included examining self-compassion intervention effects on self-reported stress reactivity and investigating the ability of self-compassion to protect against job stress or academic stress by buffering against social-evaluative stress reactivity.


Open Access



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