Habituation to complex emotional stimuli

James R. Averill, Edward J. Malmstrom, Asher Koriat, Richard S. Lazarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On each of 3 sessions, 45 male undergraduates viewed 20 presentations of an isolated accident (experimental group) and 23 Ss viewed a benign (control group) motion picture scene. At the end of each session, Ss also saw the complete movie from which these scenes were taken. Skin conductance, self-reported distress, and, to a lesser extent, heart rate showed considerable carry-over of habituation from the accident scene, viewed in isolation, to the same scene embedded in the complete movie. There was, however, very little generalization of habituation to other, similar accident scenes in the same movie. Heart rate response to the isolated accident scene was primarily deceleration, while cardiac acceleration was the primary response when the accident scene was viewed in the context of the complete film. The implication of these results for analogue studies of desensitization therapy is discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-28
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1972


  • repeated viewings of filmed accident vs. benign scene in vs. out of context, skin conductance & self-reported distress & heart rate, implications for desensitization therapy, male undergraduates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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