Adrenocorticotropin responses to interpersonal stress: Effects of overt anger expression style and defensiveness

Mustafa Al'Absi, Stephan Bongard, William R. Lovallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the influence of overt anger expression style and defensiveness on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) responses to acute psychological stress. These personality traits are thought to modulate the stress cardiovascular response and influence disease risk, however, little is known about their influence on HPA responses. Forty-six young, healthy male volunteers worked on counterbalanced extended public-speaking and mental arithmetic. The sample was dichotomitized into groups low vs. high in anger-out, using Spielberger's Anger-Expression Inventory, and in defensiveness, using the Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability Scale. Serum cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) concentrations were measured before and after performing each task. Heart rate (HR) and blood pressures (BP) were obtained continuously in 2-min intervals before, during and after the tasks. Public speaking produced greater adrenocortical and cardiovascular stress responses than mental arithmetic, and the greatest increases in ACTH occurred in subjects high in anger-out and defensiveness. These preliminary findings provide evidence that a mismatch between traits of preferred anger expression style and defensive style produces pronounced adrenocorticotropic responses during socially salient stress. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thanks are in order to Tony Buchanan and Karen Petersen for their assistance with data collection, management, and editorial assistance.


  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone
  • Anger-out
  • Cortisol
  • Defensiveness
  • Stress


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