Previous investigations of the effects of bogus arousal feedback on approach toward an aversive stimulus have failed to separate two conceptual issues: (1) the influence of perceived anxiety on approach behavior, and (2) the degree to which perceptions of decreased anxiety are central to systematic desensitization. The present research deals with only the first of these issues. The procedure required each subject to attach a microphone to his or her chest and approach a snake. Bogus heartbeat feedback was presented concurrently with the subject's approach. In Experiments 1 and 2, self-reported snake phobics approached more with a constant than with an accelerating heartbeat. Nonphobics in Experiment 2 were not systematically influenced by the feedback. In Experiment 3, subjects with moderate fear, but who had stated that they could pick up a snake, behaved like the previously tested nonphobics; moderate fear subjects who had stated uncertainty about their ability to handle a snake behaved like previously tested phobics. In no case did postexperimental self-rated fear of snakes yield a difference between feedback conditions. The results are discussed in terms of the attributional analysis of emotional behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology