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Abstract

An experiment was conducted to investigate the conditions under which sensory information has beneficial versus detrimental value as preparatory information to assist individuals in coping with stress. Fourteen high fear and twelve low fear college women underwent exposure to the cold pressor test. Half of each fear group was provided with sensory information about the sensations produced by the cold pressor and half received a control message. Distress judgments made during the cold pressor showed (a) that sensory information effectively reduced distress for low fear women, but (b) sensory information exacerbated the distress of high fear women—at least during early portions of the cold pressor test. The data generally support Leventhal's (1979) perceptual-motor theory of emotion and have pragmatic implications for those persons who provide preparatory information to individuals anticipating a stressful encounter.