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Characterizing electrodermal response habituation: A latent class approach with application to psychopathology


  • Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse under award numbers R37DA005147 and R01DA024417. Additionally, the first author was supported by T32 grant MH017069 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Address correspondence to: Joshua Isen, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail:


Response habituation is a fundamental form of nonassociative learning, yet there are substantial individual differences in its electrodermal manifestation. We employed a latent class analysis to identify discrete groups of electrodermal responders to a series of loud tones. We also evaluated whether heterogeneity in responsiveness was associated with lifetime prevalence of externalizing psychopathology and major depression. Participants were community-recruited men (N = 1,141) who underwent a standard habituation paradigm. A latent class analysis resulted in the identification of four electrodermal populations: rapid habituators, habituators, and two classes that showed weak response habituation, but differed markedly in their amplitude profiles. Relative to rapid habituators, members of slower habituating classes were less likely to receive lifetime diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder and substance dependence. Further research using this analytical strategy could help identify the functional significance of individual differences in habituation.