Assessing performance on an evaluated speaking task: The role of self-efficacy, anxiety, and cardiac autonomic reactivity

Carolina Villada, Vanesa Hidalgo, Mercedes Almela, Alicia Salvador

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Coping with social stress involves cognitive perceptions and the activation of several physiological mechanisms. Our main purpose was to examine how psychological factors such as cognitive appraisal, and particularly self-efficacy, may affect psychophysiological reactivity to social stress and young people's performance on an evaluated speaking task. Thirty-five university students (18 men and 17 women) were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and a control condition in a counterbalanced order. Self-efficacy, several dimensions of trait anxiety related to social evaluation, and changes in state anxiety were assessed. Additionally, heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) were analyzed by means of R-R and r-MSSD parameters, respectively. The results indicate that a positive self-assessment of their own ability to overcome a social threat was related to the predominance of vagal tone and better performance. However, cardiac reactivity was not related to the quality of the performance displayed. In addition, some dimensions of trait anxiety, such as cognitive anxiety and test evaluation anxiety, were negatively associated with self-efficacy and performance. These findings emphasize the relevance of self-efficacy, a key component of cognitive appraisal, in explaining psychophysiological reactivity to social stress. Furthermore, they highlight the importance of some personality characteristics, such as social evaluation anxiety, in explaining performance in specifically related stressful situations, regardless of autonomic activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
JournalJournal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • heart rate variability
  • performance
  • psychosocial stress
  • self-efficacy


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