Document Type



In order to assess the competing roles of dispositional
optimism and neuroticism on reactivity to psychological stress, we
selected 50 women (mean age = 18.76 years; SD = 1.9 years)
from a screening sample of 150 college students on the basis of
having high and low scores in dispositional optimism. In a
laboratory, participants provided cardiovascular measures before,
during, and after a mentally challenging task, as well as anxiety
scores before and after the task. Participants also supplied
measures of neuroticism and ratings of task-stressfulness. It was
found that neuroticism and not optimism exerted an influence on
diastolic blood pressure responses, that neither variable
influenced systolic blood pressure responses except in the case of
unstable change scores, and that the two variables suppressed
each other's influence on anxiety levels (but that neuroticism had
a stronger association with anxiety). It was also found that
participants' ratings of the stressfulness of the laboratory task,
although positively associated with cardiovascular reactivity, did
not mediate the relationships among optimism, neuroticism, and
cardiovascular measures. The present study confirms the
suspicion that optimism is not independent from neuroticism as an
index of disease risk.