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Lee J. Moore, Samuel J. Vine, Mark R. Wilson and Paul Freeman

Competitive situations often hinge on one pressurized moment. In these situations, individuals’ psychophysiological states determine performance, with a challenge state associated with better performance than a threat state. But what can be done if an individual experiences a threat state? This study examined one potential solution: arousal reappraisal. Fifty participants received either arousal reappraisal or control instructions before performing a pressurized, single-trial, motor task. Although both groups initially displayed cardiovascular responses consistent with a threat state, the reappraisal group displayed a cardiovascular response more reflective of a challenge state (relatively higher cardiac output and/or lower total peripheral resistance) after the reappraisal manipulation. Furthermore, despite performing similarly at baseline, the reappraisal group outperformed the control group during the pressurized task. The results demonstrate that encouraging individuals to interpret heightened physiological arousal as a tool that can help maximize performance can result in more adaptive cardiovascular responses and motor performance under pressure.