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Keywords:

  • Electrodermal activity;
  • Orienting response;
  • Habituation;
  • Scoring criteria;
  • Latency range;
  • Habituation criteria

ABSTRACT

Levinson and Edelberg's (1985) recent critique of scoring criteria for electrodermal studies pointed to the need to reduce the latency range used to define the electrodermal response. The present study examined the impact of such a narrowing of the latency window upon habituation and instructional effects in studies of the orienting response to low intensity innocuous stimuli. The first experiment found only a small effect of halving the latency window upon habituation to neutral stimuli, apparent as a strengthening of trends over trials. A second experiment showed somewhat larger effects with significant stimuli, apparent as slightly modified trial and group effects. These data support the view that nothing is to be lost by moving to a narrower latency range to define the electrodermal orienting response to stimulus presentation, and suggest that the advantages of such a change will become increasingly important as nonspecific electrodermal fluctuations increase with increasing electrodermal arousal. An analysis of habituation criteria within this context suggested that the choice of two rather than three no-response trials to define habituation adds to the benefits obtained by the selection of a narrow latency window to define the response.