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Does a 2-week positive affect intervention facilitate physiological recovery from psychological stressors in young adults?

DuPont, Caitlin M. (2022) Does a 2-week positive affect intervention facilitate physiological recovery from psychological stressors in young adults? Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Trait positive affect has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (Boehm & Kubzansky, 2012). One pathway by which positive affect might influence physical health is by buffering against psychological stress and its physiological concomitants (i.e., increases in heart rate and blood pressure). In fact, trait positive affect associates with more complete blood pressure recovery following a psychological stressor (DuPont et al., 2020). Prior work also suggests that increasing momentary positive affect in close proximity to a stressor accelerates cardiovascular and cortisol recovery following the task (e.g., Kraft & Pressman, 2012; Speer & Delgado, 2017). However, no study to date has investigated whether increasing global positive affect – outside of the context of a stressor – can also alter stress physiology. As such, the current study aimed to test whether increasing global levels of positive affect with a 2-week positive psychological intervention would facilitate cardiovascular recovery from a psychological stressor in young adults. Prior to testing the study hypothesis, two pilot studies were conducted that aimed to validate a two-week positive psychological intervention (Study 1; N = 225) and a remote version of the Trier Social Stress Test (Study 2; N = 79; Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993). Unfortunately, the two-week positive psychological intervention failed to increase positive affect in the intervention condition, precluding a test of the overall study hypothesis. In the second pilot study, the remote Trier Social Stress Test elicited emotional reactivity, but did not induce greater cardiovascular reactivity in the stress condition relative to a non-stressful control condition. As such, the final study (Study 3; N = 99) aimed to improve the remote Trier Social Stress Test. Results from the final study indicate that the remote Trier Social Stress Test successfully induced heart rate and blood pressure reactivity in the stress condition relative to controls. Furthermore, the task demonstrated good test-retest reliability when assessed one week later. Although the original study hypothesis could not be tested, developing, and validating an online stress task that can be administered remotely may allow future stress research to include populations that were previously unreachable.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
DuPont, Caitlin M.cmd142@pitt.educmd1420000-0002-8102-5845
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGianaros, Peter
Committee MemberMarsland, Anna
Committee MemberManuck, Stephen
Committee MemberPressman, Sarah
Committee MemberReed, Rebecca
Date: 30 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 June 2021
Approval Date: 30 September 2022
Submission Date: 28 May 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 217
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: heart rate, blood pressure, virtual, stress, trier social stress, positive psychological intervention, COVID-19
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2022 18:14
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2022 18:14

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