Information search and attribution: Cognitive processes mediating the effect of false autonomic feedback


  • Prof. Dr. Ernst H. Liebhart

    1. Fachbereich Psychologie, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Gutenbergstrasse 18, D-3550 Marburg/Lahn, West Germany
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    • The author would like to thank Rudolf Cohen, Martin Irle, Robert M. Stern, and Hoben Thomas for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


All published experiments using false autonomic feedback are reviewed and four sets of necessary conditions mediating its effects are proposed. These conditions convern (a) search for an explanation of the feedback, (b) availability of potentially explanatory context features, (c) causal attribution of the feedback, and (d) salience of the perceived causes. Conflicting results, including outcomes of cognitive desensitization, are explicable by reference to these conditions. Evidence supports the attributional theory of emotional behaviour and the assumed equivalence of actual and fictitious arousal although the boundary conditions of the latter postulate need still be explored.