Cortisol response to challenge involving low controllability: The role of control beliefs and age

Stefan Agrigoroaei*, Michael Polito, Angela Lee, Eileen Kranz-Graham, Teresa Seeman, Margie E. Lachman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Cortisol responses are typically more pronounced under low controllability conditions, yet little is known about the role of individual differences. This study examined whether cortisol response to a situation with low controllability differs as a function of preexisting control beliefs and age. We manipulated level of controllability using a driving simulator. Control beliefs were assessed prior to the lab session. Salivary cortisol was measured before and after the driving simulation. Participants were 152 adults aged 22-84 from a Boston area sample. In comparison to the normal controllability condition, those in the low controllability condition reported less perceived control over driving, supporting the effectiveness of the manipulation. In the low controllability condition those with higher control beliefs showed a greater cortisol response than those with low control beliefs. Older adults showed a greater cortisol response than younger adults during the challenge. Implications of acute cortisol responses for performance outcomes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-142
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Age differences
  • Control beliefs
  • Cortisol response
  • Situational controllability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • General Neuroscience


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