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Heart rate variability moderates challenge and threat reactivity to sexism among women in STEM

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Zachary Petzel


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Using a biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat, we tested resting heart rate variability (HRV) as a moderator of physiological reactivity after experiencing sexism. Women science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors participated in a mock interview in which the male interviewer made a sexist or neutral comment. Resting HRV moderated physiological stress reactivity among women in the sexism condition, but not control, indicating lower resting HRV predicted greater physiological threat than challenge and higher resting HRV predicted greater physiological challenge than threat during the interview. These findings support the emotion regulation properties of HRV as applied to a biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat. Higher resting HRV may be adaptive for women experiencing sexism in male-dominated contexts like STEM.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Casad BJ, Petzel ZW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Psychology

Year: 2018

Volume: 49

Issue: 4

Pages: 191-204

Online publication date: 10/08/2018

Acceptance date: 28/01/2018

ISSN (print): 1864-9335

ISSN (electronic): 2151-2590

Publisher: Hogrefe Verlag GmbH & Co. KG


DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000341


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