Subjective Feelings and Vascular Responses in Reaction to Reduced Control over Aversiveness

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Subjects were exposed to an aversive, modified Sidman avoidance procedure. One group had relative control over the aversiveness in that they could exercise an option for unlimited rest periods, and they could avoid electric shock by an appropriately fast response rate on a monitoring task. The second group was yoked to subjects in Group I both with respect to rests and shocks, thereby producing decreased capability of behavioral control. The effects of this manipulation were evaluated by three types of dependent measures: vascular arousal (systolic and diastolic blood pressure), verbal reports of subjective feelings, and performance on a subsequent problem-solving task. The findings suggested motivational deficits along with reduced vascular arousal among the yoked subjects, a pattern of results which may clarify some of the alternative hypotheses pertinent to “learned helplessness.”

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Perceptual Motor Skills, v. 43, issue 2, p. 451- 458