Work has emerged that suggests it is salient and feasible to include a chronological approach to the taxonomy of stress. The ability to make an explicit distinction between ancient stressors (AS) and modern stressors (MS) has been reported in young and older adults; AS have been associated with greater ability to cope and MS with poorer health outcomes. Whether these explicit distinctions exist at an implicit, unconscious level, has yet to be determined.
A quantitative design employed a computer-based Implicit Association Test (IAT) to examine implicit associations between AS/MS and coping appraisal.
One hundred adults (75 females) aged 18–58 years (M = 28.27 years, SD = 10.02) completed the AS/MS IAT, to compare reaction time (RT) and accuracy between consistent pairs (AS/ability to cope; MS/inability to cope) and inconsistent pair responses (AS/inability to cope; MS/ability to cope); followed by an explicit self-report questionnaire.
Repeated measures ANCOVAs, controlling for sex and age, revealed significant main effects of faster RT and higher accuracy in responses for consistent than inconsistent pairs. Adult participants made implicit associations indicating an unconscious AS and MS distinction. Using the D algorithm, a univariate ANCOVA and independent t-tests found that males, compared to females, showed a stronger implicit preference for consistent than inconsistent pairs.
Findings suggest an implicit association between ancient and modern stressors and perceived coping ability. Utilizing a chronological taxonomy for understanding evolutionary origins that drive individual’s responses to stress has implications for developing effective coping strategies to improve health outcomes.