Cultural Differences in Heart Rate Variability and Stress Response
It is well established that cultural values influence stress, however, very little research has investigated the psychophysiological underpinnings of these processes. The current study investigated whether differences due to individualist and collectivist culture traits (i.e., independence, interdependence) exist in psychophysiological processing (i.e., heart rate variability) and during the stress response. Aim 1 investigated whether there was a difference in resting heart rate and resting heart rate variability measurements between individualist and collectivist orientations. It was hypothesized that collectivists would display a decrease in heart rate variability measurements compared to their individualistic counterparts. Aim 2 investigated if there was a difference in the heart rate variability measurements between individualists and collectivists during an acute stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test. It was hypothesized that, when presented with an acute stressor, collectivists would display a decrease in heart rate variability. A sample of 28 healthy adults were included in these analyses. Participants completed the Self-Construal Scale (SCS) and were categorized into collectivist (N=11) or individualist (N=14) groups based on their scores. Beats-per-minute recordings were taken during a ten-minute baseline period prior to completion of the stressor and taken throughout the duration of the stressor. A significant difference was found between collectivist and individualist orientations at rest (i.e., during baseline measurements) for average heart rate and average R-R interval, with collectivists having higher heart rates but smaller R-R intervals as compared to individualists. A significant difference was also found between collectivist and individualist orientations for average heart rate and average R-R intervals during the acute stressor, however, there was no interaction between collectivistic/individualistic orientation and stress. These results suggest that cultural constructs of individualism and collectivism may affect heart rate and R-R intervals during resting and stressed conditions. This work highlights the importance of better understanding the effect of culture on psychophysiological processes within an individual.