Document Detail

Strategies of arousal control: biofeedback, meditation, and motivation.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  6459406     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
A series of four experiments assessed the effects of instructions to lower heart rate on heart rate change and general arousal reduction. Various conditions of biofeedback, cognitive load, incentive, knowledge of results, and the experimenter-subject relationship were tested. Experiment 1 compared physiological responses to the delivery of direct organ feedback (i.e., heart rate) with responses to electromyographic biofeedback from the frontalis muscle area and with responses to a nonfeedback tracking task. The results suggest that neither heart rate nor muscle tension feedback is an especially powerful method for achieving sustained reductions in heart rate. Furthermore, although some specificity of physiologic pattern is apparent, biofeedback is no more effective in lowering general activation level than simple instructions to relax accompanied by a general knowledge of results. The second experiment was designed to assess the role of cognitive load in arousal reduction. Heart rate biofeedback was compared with a procedure involving minimal external information processing--the secular meditation exercise of Wallace and Benson. The results indicated a clear superiority for the meditation strategy in effecting reductions in cardiac rate and lowering activation. However, in a third experiment, meditation subjects lowered heart rate much less than observed in the previous study, and this time the reduction did not exceed that achieved by feedback subjects. Subsequent analysis suggested that the quality of the subject-experimenter relationship (active-supportive vs. formal-distant) was a significant variable in accounting for outcome differences. The above hypothesis was supported by a fourth experiment. Under conditions of high subject-experimenter involvement, the superior meditation performance of Experiment 2 was reproduced; under low-involvement conditions the Experiment 3 result of no difference between training groups was obtained. The findings suggest that the effectiveness of any method for achieving relaxation (or physiological control) rests on a complex interaction between informational and motivational imperatives of the stimulus context and definable aspects of the interpersonal exchange between subject and experimenter. This research raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the usual biofeedback paradigm as an aid to arousal reduction and the cost efficiency of its applications in the clinical situation. Furthermore, these results demonstrate the great power in relaxation experiments of psychosocial and other moderator variables, and signal the practical difficulty of their control when these variables appear to be as potent in changing physiology as the primary training methods.
B Cuthbert; J Kristeller; R Simons; R Hodes; P J Lang
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of experimental psychology. General     Volume:  110     ISSN:  0096-3445     ISO Abbreviation:  J Exp Psychol Gen     Publication Date:  1981 Dec 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1982-03-13     Completed Date:  1982-03-13     Revised Date:  2009-11-19    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7502587     Medline TA:  J Exp Psychol Gen     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  518-46     Citation Subset:  IM    
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MeSH Terms
Biofeedback, Psychology*
Galvanic Skin Response
Heart Rate
Relaxation Therapy*
Grant Support

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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