Heart Rate Variability Predicts Emotional Flexibility in Response to Positive Stimuli


Flexible adaptation to constantly changing environments is linked to mental health and psychological functioning. Heart rate variability (HRV), an index of autonomic flexibility, has been implicated in emotional flexibility, the ability to generate contextually dependent emotional responses in accordance with situational demands. The current study investigated whether HRV during rest is associated with experienced emotion, one of the measures of emotional flexibility. To assess experienced emotion in response to changing events, three types of stimuli sets were created by presenting two stimuli successively. First, two stimuli represented the same valence (i.e., negative/negative or positive/positive). Second, two stimuli represented opposite valences (i.e., negative/positive or positive/negative). Third, a neutral stimulus was followed by negative or positive stimulus (i.e., neutral/negative or neutral/positive). Psychological ratings for experienced emotion to the second stimulus were collected with regard to valence and arousal. The results showed that subjects with lower resting HRV experienced more aroused states in response to successive positive stimuli. Resting HRV may be a proxy of emotional flexibility indexed by subjective arousal states to positive events.

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Fujimura, T. & Okanoya, K. (2012). Heart Rate Variability Predicts Emotional Flexibility in Response to Positive Stimuli. Psychology, 3, 578-582. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.38086.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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