Current Concerns and Electrodermal Reactivity: Responses to Words and Thoughts


  • The authors are indebted to a pilot study conducted by Jack McCullough, in which we developed many of the methods used in the present study, and to technical support by Hans Simonis.

Requests for reprints should be directed to Eric Klinger, Division of Social Sciences, University of Minnesota, Morris, MN 56267.


ABSTRACT Previous research has found that subjects rate words that are closely related to their current concerns as affectively more arousing than other words. This investigation inquires whether a similar relationship occurs when arousal is measured electrodermally, and whether nonspecific (spontaneous) electrodermal activity is associated with self-generated thoughts about current concerns. In the first experiment, subjects listened to audiotaped sequences of three-word clusters associated with previously measured own current concerns or with concerns of others. Mean skin conductance responses were significantly larger for clusters related to subjects' own concerns than for those related to others' concerns, although many subjects contributing to this effect showed some awareness of the hypothesis. In the second experiment, thoughts that accompanied nonspecific skin conductance responses received significantly higher self-ratings for concern-relatedness and arousal than thoughts that occurred during electrodermal inactivity. In Experiment 3, they were rated higher for current-concern content and anxiety and lower for mental imagery and dormant-concern content than thoughts during electrodermal inactivity.