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Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Jun;56(3):261-9. Epub 2005 Jan 28.

The influence of anxiety on electrodermal responses to distractors.

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  • 1Department of Biology, SN4.1, University of Lille 1, 59 655 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, France. Janick.Naveteur@univ-lille1.fr


Contrary to classical expectation, anxiety has been repeatedly observed to be associated with reduced electrodermal activity. This could be the result of successful coping. In line with this interpretation, high-trait anxious individuals performing moderately arousing tasks were expected to manifest a reduced responding to distractors, since this is an adaptive outcome. High- and low-trait anxious participants had to perform a visual search task in a low-stress context. Unrelated neutral and emotional auditory words served as distractors. As a control, neutral and emotional words were also delivered in a no task condition. Skin conductance responses (SCRs) were greater during the task than during the control phase, but in the high anxious group, this increase in SCRs was smaller following emotional distractors than following neutral ones. Moreover, SCRs to both types of words habituated, but the results suggested that only the low-trait anxious participants presented the classical slowing of SCRs habituation when performing the task. All these data are interpreted as an illustration of a resource-based electrodermal inhibition in the high-trait anxious participants. It sustains the idea that mild to moderate anxiety may increase the mastery of situations.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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