Psychobiological responses to critically evaluated multitasking

Mark Wetherell, Olivia Craw, Kenny Smith, Michael Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


In order to understand psychobiological responses to stress it is necessary to observe how people react to controlled stressors. A range of stressors exist for this purpose; however, laboratory stressors that are representative of real life situations provide more ecologically valid opportunities for assessing stress responding. The current study assessed psychobiological responses to an ecologically valid laboratory stressor involving multitasking and critical evaluation. The stressor elicited significant increases in psychological and cardiovascular stress reactivity; however, no cortisol reactivity was observed. Other socially evaluative laboratory stressors that lead to cortisol reactivity typically require a participant to perform tasks that involve verbal responses, whilst standing in front of evaluative others. The current protocol contained critical evaluation of cognitive performance; however, this was delivered from behind a seated participant. The salience of social evaluation may therefore be related to the response format of the task and the method of evaluation. That is, the current protocol did not involve the additional vulnerability associated with in person, face-to-face contact, and verbal delivery. Critical evaluation of multitasking provides an ecologically valid technique for inducing laboratory stress and provides an alternative tool for assessing psychological and cardiovascular reactivity. Future studies could additionally use this paradigm to investigate those components of social evaluation necessary for eliciting a cortisol response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-73
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
Early online date10 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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