Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Roland Bergeson


Roland Bergeson


Michael Bertoch


Keith Checketts


David Stone


Jay Skidmore


The purpose of this study was to determine the physiological responses of subjects to an initial psychological interview, and to study the effect of physical proximity and touch on these responses. Heart rate and total skin conductance variability were the responses monitored. To assess the subjects' like or dislike of the psychologist interviewer, a measure of interpersonal attraction, the Interpersonal Judgment Scale, was employed. The California Psychological Inventory was utilized to investigate possible personality correlates with the physiological responses.

Sixty females, between the ages of 18 and 28, responded to the California Psychological Inventory and were then connected to the physiological monitoring devices. The subjects' physiological responses were recorded for a 10-minute period in an empty office and then they randomly received one of the following treatments: In treatment I the psychologist entered the counseling office, introduced himself, and sat one foot from the subject while orally administering the Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank--Adult Form. When the psychologist reached item 15 he stated, "Very good, now let's go on to page 2." After the test, the psychologist said, "That's all for today, thank you for your help. If you will wait here, the experimenter will be right in." The psychologist then left the office, and the subject responded to the Interpersonal Judgment Scale. Treatment II was identical to treatment I, except the subject was touched three times during the interview, once on the shoulder and twice on the arm. In treatment III the psychologist entered the office, sat behind a desk and followed the procedure outlined in treatment I.

The results indicated that a subject's reaction to an initial psychological interview is a mild to moderate defensive response manifested by an increase in physiological stress levels. Total skin conductance variability increased significantly during the period when the psychologist was in the office. Heart rate increased in 54 out of 60 cases, but did not increase sufficiently enough in magnitude to justify significance.

There were no significant differences between the three treatment groups on heart rate, skin conductance, or interpersonal attraction, and there were no personality correlates which were great enough to be of practical value.

The data collected in the experiment supported the conclusion that a subject's reaction to an initial psychological interview is a mild to moderate stress response manifested by increments in physiological stress levels. Touch and physical proximity do not appear to alter the stress response or the subject's like--dislike attitude toward the psychologist.



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