This study was conducted to further examine the role that perceptions of ability may play in determining the impact of task demand on cardiovascular responses associated with active coping. Subjects who described themselves as having low or high ability in math were given the opportunity to avoid a noise by doing well on a set of math problems described as easy (Low Demand), difficult (High Demand), or extremely difficult (Very High Demand). Measures taken immediately prior to the performance period indicated that systolic blood pressure reactivity (a) was greater in the High Demand condition than in the Low and Very High Demand conditions for those with low reported ability, but (b) tended to increase with the level of task demand for those with high reported ability. Moreover, whereas systolic responsiveness tended to be greater for Low Ability subjects than for High Ability subjects when task demand was low and was greater for Low Ability subjects than for High Ability subjects when task demand was high, it tended to be greater for High Ability subjects than for Low Ability subjects when task demand was very high. These findings conceptually replicate and extend effects observed previously and provide additional support for a conceptual analysis which suggests that active coping is a joint function of perceived ability and task demand. © 1994 Academic Press, Inc.