Reprints are available from the author at the Department of Psychology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 17837.
Autonomic arousal as a cognitive cue in stressful situations1
Version of Record online: 28 APR 2006
Journal of Personality
Volume 47, Issue 4, pages 677–711, December 1979
How to Cite
Gerdes, E. P. (1979), Autonomic arousal as a cognitive cue in stressful situations. Journal of Personality, 47: 677–711. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1979.tb00216.x
This article is based on a doctoral dissertation submitted to Duke University. For their generous help with this project, I especially thank Philip R. Costanzo, my dissertation chairman, and the staff, students, and patients of the Oral Surgery Clinic at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.
- Issue online: 28 APR 2006
- Version of Record online: 28 APR 2006
- Manuscript received August 28, 1978
The need for further investigation and integration in a real world situation is demonstrated in a critical review of the literature on autonomic feedback and attribution of arousal in stressful situations. In the present study, actual autonomic arousal, arbitrary feedback of arousal, and attributions for arousal were manipulated in a dental clinic where the subjects were awaiting oral surgery. The main prediction was that cognized arousal (due either to perception of actual arousal or to arbitrary feedback about arousal level) in the absence of a nonemotional attribution for that cognized arousal would lead to higher subjective report of anxiety and to greater avoidance than would be found with either of these conditions unmet. The results on the subjective report measure generally supported this hypothesis. In addition, arbitrary feedback about arousal level did not interact with the actual arousal manipulation; nor did it produce changes in pulse rate or blood pressure, further supporting a cognitive interpretation of the effects of autonomic arousal on subjective report. However, the study illustrates difficulties in inducing beneficial beliefs in the real world. And the manipulations generally did not affect the behavioral measure, probably due to the expected consequences of that behavior.