Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Martin, Randall B.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Psychophysiology; Feedback (Psychology)


Two experiments were conducted to study the behavioral and physiological effects of nonveridical information concerning physiological arousal. These experiments were based on Schachter's (1964) theory of emotional behavior and Valins' (1966) proposal that "if cognitive representations of internal events are important for emotional behavior, then...nonveridical representations of physiological changes should have the same effects as veridical ones" (p. 401). In the first experiment, 51 female introductory psychology students who reported "much" or "very much" fear of nonpoisonous snakes viewed a series of 20 different snake slides and rated how aroused they felt while viewing each slide. One third of the subjects (Ss) heard false "heart-rate" feedback indicating that their heart-rate markedly increased whenever a snake slide was presented; one third heard relatively little or no change in "heart-rate" sounds while viewing the snake slides; and one-third received no bogus information about their reaction to the snake slides. The S's actual physiological reaction was measured by changes in her skin conductance response (SCR) during the slide presentation procedure. Results of the first experiment revealed that the high and low arousal feedback produced no reliable differences in subjective ratings of arousal. It was concluded that the crucial cognitions for a test of Valins' theory were not established. Failure to produce these cognitions presumably accounted for the fact that Ss in the three conditions did not reliably differ in their fear of a live snake. There were no significant group differences in the number of snake avoidance tasks completed, nor were there significant group differences in the degree of subjective fear reported during the snake avoidance test (SAT). In light of several factors which seemingly contributed to the first experiment's failure, a second experiment was designed. The 21 Ss in this experiment were randomly selected from the female introductory psychology students who reported being "very much" afraid or terrified of "nonpoisonous snakes". In addition to new feedback tapes and new stimulus slides, instructions for the post-treatment SAT were prerecorded. Results of the second experiment were consistent with Valin's theoretical notions. Subjects in the "low arousal" (LA) condition reported being less aroused by snake slides than control (C) Ss did, and Ss in the "high arousal" (HA) condition reported the greatest degree of arousal while viewing pictures of snakes. When faced with a live snake, LA Ss approached closer and reported less fear than the C Ss; HA Ss reported the greatest degree of fear and performed the fewest number of snake approach tasks. The findings were discussed in terms of the procedural differences between the two studies, as well as the limitations inherent in both. Several recommendations for future research were made.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.||Missing page 78.


118 pages




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