Caffeine makes men less, but women more effective as partners under stressful circumstances

L St Claire, PJ Rogers, RC Hayward

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Background Aims were to test whether (1) increased caffeine consumption exacerbates stress and disrupts dyad performance (2) “tend and befriend� not “fight or flight� characterises women’s coping (Taylor et al, 2000). Based on cognitive relational theory, hypotheses were (1) stressful circumstances and increased caffeine consumption interact to exacerbate the experience of stress and disrupt dyad performance (2) especially for men. Methods Design 2x2x2 between-subjects Independent variables: • caffeine (1-2 cups of coffee equivalent, in decaffeinated coffee or not) • stressful conditions (ongoing expectation of public speaking plus performance-related payment, (HS) or not (LS)) • gender Dependent variables included: • appraisals • emotional feelings • symptoms • coping • collaborative memory, psychomotor and negotiation task outcomes. Participants 24 male and 40 female coffee-drinkers, in same-sex, same-age dyads. Procedure Bristol University Department of Experimental Psychology Research Ethics Committee ensured protocol complied with BPS guidelines. Participants were pseudo-randomly assigned to conditions, given coffees and told they “may or may not contain caffeine�. After 25 minutes, dyads completed collaborative tasks. Subsequently, individuals completed self-report batteries, were debriefed and paid. Findings ANOVAs yielded little support for Hypothesis (1). Three-way interactions supported Hypothesis (2) on Active Coping and all performance domains. E.g. psychomotor tasks were 43 seconds slower under HS. For men caffeine consumption retarded performances by 48 seconds more. Women under HS were 53 seconds faster if they consumed caffeine. F(1,31) = 4.27, p = .05. Discussion Our cognitive-relational perspective contributes to health psychology by facilitating integration of opposing effects of key variables on different components of stress. Because tasks were collaborative, findings imply that “tend and befriend� characterises women’s coping better than “fight or flight�. Also, well-being of male dyads under stress might be promoted by avoiding extra caffeine.
Translated title of the contributionCaffeine makes men less, but women more effective as partners under stressful circumstances
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Psychological Society Health Division Conference, Cochester
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Medium/genre: Poster
Conference Organiser: British Psychological Society
Other: Forthcoming


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