Date of Award

Fall 12-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Elizabeth Shirtcliff, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Robert Laird, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gerald J. LaHoste, Ph.D.


Stress has been widely shown to directly influence people’s emotional and behavioral processing as well as their underlying biological systems. This project examined physiological and behavioral responses as indicators of stress and coping in the context of a psychosocial stressor in a controlled laboratory setting. We examined the association between indicators of behavioral coping and underlying physiological reactivity within participants while experiencing stress. Participants included 68 emerging adults. Physiological measures include autonomic biomarkers (e.g., heart-rate, skin conductance) at rest and during the stressor while behavioral indicators that were coded include acute verbal and non-verbal actions exhibited by participants during the stressor. Results supported the efficacy of a modified social stressor at eliciting stress responding in participants. In addition, behavioral coping was found to be associated with autonomic responding to the stressor. Exploring these associations has important implications for understanding the interaction between biological and behavioral responding to stress.


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