Can personal task choice shield against fear and anger prime effects on effort? A study on cardiac response

David Framorando, Johanna R. Falk, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen, Guido H.E. Gendolla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This experiment tested whether personal task choice can shield against implicit affective influences on sympathetically mediated cardiovascular response, reflecting effort. Participants were N = 121 healthy university students who completed a moderately difficult memory task with integrated briefly flashed and masked fear vs. anger primes. Half of the participants believed they could choose between an attention and a memory task, while the other half was automatically assigned to the task. Replicating previous research, we expected an influence of the affect primes on effort when the task was externally assigned. By contrast, when participants were given a task choice, we predicted strong action shielding and thus a weak implicit affect effect on resource mobilization. As expected, participants in the assigned task condition showed stronger cardiac pre-ejection period reactivity when exposed to fear primes than when processing anger primes. Importantly, this affect prime effect disappeared when participants could ostensibly choose the task. These findings add to other recent evidence for action shielding by personal task choice and importantly extend this effect to implicit affective influences on cardiac reactivity during task performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108616
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Action shielding
  • Cardiac response
  • Effort
  • Implicit affect
  • Pre-ejection period
  • Volition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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