Using a variety of cognitive or behavioral strategies to manage stressful situations may be more adaptive than relying on a narrow selection. Although research has explored the psychological benefits of a range of coping responses, the physiological impact within and across stressful situations has not been examined. Moreover, research has primarily relied upon self-reports of what people believe they generally do across stressful situations, which may be subject to recall bias. This study observed and coded the range of behavioral response strategies that young adults (n=74, mean age 18.1) used to manage a laboratory-based, interpersonal conflict task and collected self-reports of the cognitive strategies used to manage similar stressors. Analyses examined the impact of response range on cortisol activity during the task. Greater range of observed response strategies predicted lower cortisol reactivity (t(133)=2.65; p=.009), whereas the range of self-reported strategies was unrelated to cortisol reactivity (t(133)=.53; p=.60). Results support observational assessment as an important supplement to self-reports of responses to stress and suggest that the range of strategies used to manage the momentary demands of a stressful situation may help explain individual differences in the impact of stress on physiological systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health