Variations in Adult Heart Rate During Visual Discrimination Learning Tasks: Effects of Habituation and Iq

Date of Graduation

Fall 2000


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

D. Wayne Mitchell


Variability in the magnitude of heart rate (HR), as an indicator of stimulus processing, has been used to study and measure individual differences in cognitive activity. This experiment used changes in HR to assess individual differences in levels of processing during a discrimination learning task that consisted of 2 Baseline, 10 Learning, 2 Maintenance, and 2 Re-Learning trials. Seventy-four adults' HR were recorded and analyzed. There were three main goals for this project: (1) to replicate Mitchell et al.'s (2000) finding that during a visual discrimination learning task three distinct changes in HR would occur; (2) to assess the effects of habitual experience upon HR during visual discrimination learning; and (3) to examine the relationship between IQ and changes in HR during discrimination learning. This experiment provided evidence supporting HR as an indicator of cognitive activity while solving a visual discrimination problem; supported the hypothesis that habitual experience does have an effect on cognitive activity (that is, habitual experience enhanced attention); but failed to find a reliable relationship between IQ and HR.

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© Jeneffer C Keet-Bell