STUDIES ON THE REINFORCEMENT OF SPONTANEOUS ELECTRODERMAL ACTIVITY.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL BOSTON MASS
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A series of studies designed to evaluate the effect of reinforcing the occurrence of spontaneous skin potential responses recorded from the palmar surface of the hands in human subjects is presented. Contingent reinforcement results in a heightened rate of response emission when evaluated against a non-contingent reinforcement control in a variety of experimental designs. An activating, as opposed to a neutral, instructional set increases the intersubject reliability of the phenomenon by promoting the occurrence of resting level spontaneous activity. The effect is independent of time trends in skin potential level, heart rate, respiration rate, and gross skeletal activity. Theoretical and research implications of operant autonomic conditioning are discussed. Author