A Major Effect of Recording Site on Measurement of Electrodermal Activity


Address requests for reprints to: Angela Scerbo. Department of Psychology, S.G.M. 501, University of Southern California. University Park. Los Angeles, California 90089–1061.


Although the medial phalanx has been recommended as the preferred site for recording skin conductance activity, a review of articles published in Psychophysiology indicates that a large minority (34%) of studies employ the distal phalanx. Informal observations also suggest that the distal site may be more reactive than the medial site. This study formally tests this observation by recording skin conductance from both medial and distal phalanges. Twenty-four right-handed subjects (12 male, 12 female) were exposed to a series of 10 orienting and defensive stimuli. Electrodes were placed on the fore and middle fingers of each hand, with distal sites used on one hand and medial sites on the other for each subject. Skin conductance amplitudes were 3.5 times larger at distal than medial sites (p<.002), while skin conductance levels were 2.08 times larger at distal sites (p<.0005). A significant Site × Stimulus interaction (p<.025) indicated that the distal site was more sensitive to habituation over trials and to increases in skin conductance amplitudes with increasing stimulus intensity than the medial site. On the basis of these findings it is recommended that distal sites be used in preference to medial sites in the recording of skin conductance activity.