Self-esteem and Autonomic Physiology: Parallels Between Self-Esteem and Cardiac Vagal Tone as Buffers of Threat
In this paper we suggest a potential physiological connection to self-esteem: cardiac vagal tone, the degree of influence on the heart by the vagus, a primary nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. This hypothesis emerges from parallels between the two literatures that suggest both self-esteem and cardiac vagal tone function to provide protection from threat responding. We review these literatures and in addition review evidence and preliminary findings that suggest in some contexts self-esteem and cardiac vagal tone may exert an influence on each other. Lastly, we discuss theoretical and applied health implications of this potential physiological connection to self-esteem.