Relation of Learned Heart Rate Control to Self-Report in Different Task Environments


  • This article is based on a doctoral dissertation submitted to McMaster University by R.J. Williams. L.E. Roberts was thesis supervisor. The research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Address requests for reprints to: L.E. Roberts, Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1.


A widely-expressed view based on early studies of the verbal report in biofeedback holds that response awareness is unnecessary for learned control of visceral responding. However, more recent evidence has questioned this view. This article reports two experiments that analyzed verbal reports with the methods of recent studies while examining procedural differences between early and recent research. Experiment 1 assessed the effects of bidirectional versus unidirectional training on heart rate control and self-report. Experiment 2 examined heart rate control and self-report in two task environments that differed with regard to whether somatomotor action was afforded or allowed. No instances of response learning without response awareness were observed in either experiment, even when task environments approximating those of the early biofeedback studies were used. The results support viewpoints of biofeedback that assign a role to response awareness in the development of instructed control.