Effectiveness of skin resistance biofeedback for controlling arousal in non-stressful and stressful situations: Two experiments


Experiment I examined the separate and combined effects of instructions to change skin resistance and skin resistance biofeedback for both increasing and decreasing skin resistance. A 2 (instructions to increase skin resistance, instructions to decrease skin resistance) x 2 (skin resistance biofeedback, no biofeedback) factorial plus 1 (no instructions to change skin resistance and no biofeedback) design was employed. The results indicated, first, that biofeedback aided subjects in increasing their arousal but did not aid subjects in decreasing their arousal, and second, that subjects who were not instructed to change their resistance and not given biofeedback showed the lowest level of arousal. Experiment II examined the effectiveness of instructions to relax, skin resistance biofeedback, and a placebo for aiding subjects in reducing arousal while in a stressful situation (being shocked). A simple five-condition design was employed: (a) stress/no treatment, (b) stress/instructions to relax, (c) stress/ instructions to relax plus biofeedback, (d) stress/instructions to relax plus placebo, and (e) no stress/no treatment. The results indicated that the stress manipulation (shocks) was effective for increasing arousal and that the instructions to relax aided subjects in reducing arousal but that neither the skin resistance biofeedback nor the placebo treatment aided subjects in reducing arousal. The results of both experiments raise questions about the effectiveness of skin resistance biofeedback for aiding persons in decreasing arousal. © 1981.

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Journal of Psychosomatic Research