Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi


Physiological reactivity to stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease. Previous studies examining the effects of various forms of relaxation training on reactivity have conducted training under standard, quiet conditions (non-concurrent training). This study compared the effects of concurrent relaxation training (i.e., during stressful conditions) and non-concurrent cue-controlled relaxation training (quiet conditions) on physiological reactivity to two stressors. Reactivity to two stressors was probed before and after non-concurrent (quiet) training and concurrent (stressful) training. The subjects, eight patients in a cardiovascular rehabilitation program, performed a stressful arithmetic task and role plays of both standard and individually stressful situations. Cue-controlled relaxation training during quiet conditions was implemented following an initial probe of reactivity and was considered successful when subjects could relax on cue within one to two minutes, as indicated by a reduction in physiological measures to near resting levels. Subjects' reactivity during the two stressors was probed following non-concurrent and concurrent relaxation training. Half the subjects received concurrent training during the mental arithmetic stressor first, then during the role play stressor; the other subjects received the reverse sequence. Non-concurrent relaxation training resulted in slight decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure reactivity to the stressors (8 mmHg and 2.5 mmHg, respectively); other physiological measures of reactivity were unaffected. Concurrent relaxation training resulted in moderate to large decreases in blood pressure reactivity to the stressor trained (decreases of 16 mmHg in systolic and 8 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure); reactivity to untrained stressor was unaffected. Subsequent training during the other stressor resulted in decreases in blood pressure reactivity in response to that stressor, while reactivity to the previously trained stressor continued to be low. The implications of these results for training relaxation as a coping response to stress are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons