Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schefft, Bruce K.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Emotions; Human behavior; Self-control


The present study examined the impact of emotional arousal and self-control training in a design involving measures of cold pressor task tolerance, physiological responding, and self-reactions. Forty-six female undergraduate students who scored within the upper or lower 30% on a measure of trait anxiety participated in the study. High and low anxious subjects were randomly assigned to one of two training conditions modeled after those used by M. D. Avia and F. H. Kanfer in 1980. Self-control training included instruction in the use of an imagery technique, emphasizing factors such as perceived control and personal competence. Subjects in the information training group received instruction about the physiological effects of cold water and the experimental measurement of physiological arousal. All subjects participated in two trials of the cold pressor task, one before and one after training. Measures of physiological arousal included electrodermal response (EDR), electromyograph (EMG), skin temperature (ST), heart rate (HR), and systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), which were measured at various points throughout the procedure. Self-report measures included the Self-Control Schedule, Self-Efficacy Scale, Pennebaker Inventory of Limbic Languidness, and a post-experimental questionnaire—all of which were completed post-experimentally. Results indicated that self-control training was effective in increasing tolerance duration over trials, and produced different patterns of physiological responding. The self-control group showed lower levels of EMG over trials and greater decreases in blood pressure after Trial 2, indicating that self-control training produced lower levels of arousal. Pre-existing differences in trait anxiety did not have an effect on tolerance duration, although high anxious subjects responded with higher levels of physiological arousal over trials (EDR). In addition, the high anxious self-control group showed lower levels of ST (higher arousal) during the training interval. Self-reactions indicated that high anxiety resulted in higher ratings of perceived anxiety and lower ratings of ability to concentrate and follow directions. Results were discussed in terms of the effectiveness of training and the disruptive effects of emotional arousal with implications for future research.


Bibliography: pages [117]-126.


163 pages




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