Impact of values clarification on cortisol reactivity to an acute stressor

Jennifer A. Gregg, Michael S. Namekata, Walter A. Louie, Cheryl Chancellor-Freeland

The present study investigated whether a brief values clarification intervention impacted neuroendocrine stress reactivity in a standardized social stress task, and whether psychological variables, such as experiential avoidance and consistency with living personal values, predicted that reactivity. Participants were 98 healthy undergraduates who were randomized to receive values clarification or a control activity, followed by the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993), a standardized social stressor. Individuals who received the values intervention demonstrated significantly lower cortisol. Contrary to the hypotheses, experiential avoidance appeared to be a significant negative predictor of baseline cortisol, and in a subset of participants in the values condition (N=34), use of values during the stress task was a significant positive predictor of stress reactivity. These results indicate that values clarification, but not values utilization, may be an effective method of mitigating stress reactivity in acutely stressful contexts. 

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