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The biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat

The next model we will cover to understand performance under pressure is the Biopsychosocial Model of Challenge and Threat (BMCT) (Blascovich & Mendes, 2000; Blascovich, 2008). The model provides a theoretical framework that offers an explanation of variations in different environments, where individuals are motivated to attain self-relevant goals. An example of these self-relevant goals are motivated performance situations such as taking an exam, giving a public speech or competing in a sporting competition. The performance situation follows a similar approach to a stressor or stressful situation. Stress can be defined by McGrath (1970) as:

a substantial imbalance between demand (psychological/physical) and response capability, under conditions where failure to meet that demand has important consequences

(p. 20)

Based on the BMCT, when individuals are participating in these tasks they evaluate the demands of the task and whether they possess the necessary resources to cope effectively with these demands. Select each one to see how a challenge mindset and threat mindset approach this:

Those individuals who evaluate that they have sufficient resources to cope with the demands of a task.

Those individuals who evaluate that they do not have sufficient resources to cope with the demands of a task.

Those individuals who adopt a challenge mindset are more likely to achieve successful performance than those who adopt a threat mindset.

The important thing to restate here is that this evaluation will only take place if the individual is motivated to complete this task. Demand and resource appraisals can occur consciously, unconsciously (automatically) or both (Blascovich, 2008).

In what sort of situations or tasks do you appraise the demands and resources consciously?

With the above task, you may struggle to identify specific situations where you fully consciously appraise without some unconscious appraisal. In most situations, we appraise subconsciously and therefore it can be difficult to measure through self-report . A critical tenet of the BMCT is that a stronger predictor of these states can be witnessed by distinctive patterns of neuroendocrine and cardiovascular responses (Blascovich, 2008; Seery, 2011). The key cardiovascular response measures can be seen below. Select each one to reveal what each one is.

This is the maximal increase in HR/time needed to reach the heart max when under a stressful situation. Under challenge and threat states this is increased. This can be measured using heart rate monitor equipment.

This is Total Peripheral Resistance and refers to the resistance to blood flow offered by all of the systemic vasculature. In a challenge state, individuals experience decreased TPR reactivity, and those who adopt a threat state experience an increased TPR reactivity. This can be measured with a finometer.

This is Cardiac Output Reactivity and refers to the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute. Those in a challenge state experience increased CO reactivity and those in a threat state experience a decreased CO reactivity. This can also be measured with a finometer.

The Pre-Ejection Period is the time elapsed between the electrical depolarisation of the left ventricle and the beginning of the ventricular ejection and represents the time the left ventricle contracts with the cardiac valves closed. This is influenced by sympathetic activity via beta1 adrenoreceptors and shorted under stimulation such as stress. This can be measured through blood pressure.

Overall, looking at this, we can see that a challenge evaluation is marked by a higher cardiac output and lower total peripheral resistance compared to a threat evaluation. The reason behind this stems from a chemical release in the brain. Under a challenge state, the brain releases adrenaline, which is what causes the increase in CO allowing for oxygen, blood and glucose to be pumped around the body; while in a threat state, the brain releases more cortical, which then causes a reduction in CO and increases in TPR, thus restricting the flow of oxygen, blood and glucose around the body.