Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David M. Diamond, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Geoffrey F. Potts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maureen E. Groer, Ph.D.


ability feedback, cardiovascular responses, cognitive load, reward availability


Excessive sympathetic cardiovascular reactivity to stressful tasks is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Many populations with a greater risk for CVD instead demonstrate blunted cardiovascular reactivity to stressful tasks. The motivational intensity theory identifies how motivation and effort influence sympathetic reactivity. Blunted reactivity may be a potential index of motivational dysregulation, which leads to poor behavioral decisions such as excess smoking or alcohol use, in turn increasing the risk for CVD. The current study sought to demonstrate how inhibited effort due to poor ability feedback with a low-contingency reward could directly increase the risk for CVD through perseverative cognition and impaired recovery. Participants (N = 89) were given either poor or good feedback on a working memory task that was purported to be related to another related working memory task. Participants were then informed that they could secure a low- or high-contingency reward opportunity by meeting a performance standard. EKG, impedance cardiography, blood pressure, and pupillometry were recorded throughout. Pre-ejection period reactivity and self-reported effort were greatest in participants given good feedback with a high-contingency reward and poor feedback with a low-contingency reward. Greater effort and sympathetic reactivity support previous findings linking these two measures. The results also suggest evaluating both internal and external rewards is important when examining motivation.

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Psychology Commons