My colleagues and I have recently had a new article accepted for publication in Motivation and Emotion. This paper adds to a growing literature showing that individual differences in personality (such as implicit motives) can moderate the physiological response to stress.

A pre-print version of the article can be downloaded here.

The upshot of this is that the HPA axis–which is the hormonal cascade that prepares an organism for “fight or flight”–reacts differently to certain situations depending on your motivational disposition.

In this particular paper we observed a heightened cortisol response to achievement-relevant situations for individuals high in implicit achievement motivation (nAch), but only when individuals received positive or neutral feedback on their performance. For individuals high in nAch who received negative feedback, their cortisol response was attenuated.

This is an interesting pattern of findings. To some extent they are consistent with those of Schultheiss, Wiemers, and Wolf (2014), but in other ways they are not. It’s clear that implicit motives do influence the body’s response to stress, but more work will be required to establish quite HOW this association functions to direct motivated behaviour.