John L. Buck

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Allen, Jon G.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Stress (Psychology)


A cognitive appraisal of threat is believed to intervene between the appearance of a stressful stimulus and a stress reaction to the stimulus. The effect of a "rational" treatment on the appraisal of threat was investigated. Five groups of thirteen college students each heard one of five treatment orientations before viewing slides showing the victims of automobile accidents. The "rational" group was told that it was illogical to strongly identify with the pictured victims. The "content-denial" treatment denied that accidents are painful or tragic. The "mystification" orientation told subjects that they would feel mildly excited, rather than distressed, by the slides. Subjects in the "suppression" group were instructed to detach themselves as much as possible from the slides. The control group was told that emotions have a physiological and affective component. While subjects viewed the slides, their heart rates and endosomatic skin potentials were monitored and self-reports of "distress" were obtained. A measure of avoidant behavior was obtained after the slide presentation. The results of the self-report measure indicated that the "rational" and "suppression" treatments led to significantly lower self-reports of "distress" than the other conditions. This suggests that the "rational" treatment was effective in altering the appraisal of theat. However, these findings were not supported by physiological and behavioral measures.


Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 111 pages




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