Date of Award

Fall 1997

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John D Mayer


Do persons who typically deny their feelings of anxiety also deny relief when a threatening situation ends? Can such persons create relief in themselves by reconsidering the threat and their resources to cope with the threat? The present study sought to answer these questions and to explore more generally the experiential and cardiovascular nature of emotional relief that emerges from coping with the presence of a threat and then realizing that a threat is no longer present. Preselected in terms of whether or not they typically deny feelings of anxiety ("repressive coping style"), 141 college students participated in two series of manipulations designed to be threatening and then non-threatening. In one series of manipulations, students took a bogus "Psychological Sensitivity Test," received computerized feedback that they failed the test, participated in a writing task in which they either wrote about their test performance (experimental condition) or wrote about a typical day in their lives (control condition), and then received feedback that their first test evaluation was incorrect and they had actually passed the test. In the second series of manipulations, students were informed that they had been randomly selected for a (bogus) security check, in which their research credits would be revoked if they did not properly identify themselves on an ambiguous identification task--a task which all subjects did, in fact, pass. During both series of manipulations, heart rate and blood pressure were recorded, and after each manipulation, self-reported mood was assessed. I predicted that, compared to nonrepressors, repressors would exhibit less cardiovascular relaxation while writing about their failure and they would report less relief after success on the bogus test and after passing the security check. As it turned out, repressors' and nonrepressors' cardiovascular responses during the experimental writing task were not significantly different from each other or from cardiovascular activity during the control task. In contrast to nonrepressors, repressors reported more relief following success and (nonsignificantly) less relief after passing the security check. These and other findings suggest that the security check may have been more effective than the test evaluations at eliciting anxiety and relief.