Personality dimensions and classical conditioning of autonomic nervous system reactions


Journal Article

According to Eysenck's arousal theory, introverts and individuals high on neuroticism should show greater reactivity and better conditionability than extraverts and individuals low on neuroticism. Forty-six subjects recruited consecutively were subjected to a discriminative Pavlovian conditioning paradigm after being classified in terms of extraversion and neuroticism using a median-split approach. Pictures with a duration of 8 sec served as conditioned stimuli (CS) and a mild electric shock served as an unconditioned stimulus (UCS). Heart rate and multiple electrodermal responses were recorded during a habituation phase (8 trials), an acquisition phase, during which CS+ was paired with UCS- never was (16 trials), and an extinction phase where the electric shocks were withheld (16 trials). During the acquisition phase, introverts displayed greater accelerative unconditioned heart rate responses than extraverts. Introverts conditioned heart rate accelerations to CS+ while extraverts conditioned heart rate decelerations to CS+. There were no significant differences in reactions to CS - between the groups. Extraverts and introverts did not differ in electrodermal reactivity of conditionability. No significant differences were obtained between individuals high and low on neuroticism, neither in cardiovascular nor electrodermal reactivity or conditionability. The present study supports the view that introversion, but not neuroticism, facilities classical conditioning of parasympathetic rather than sympathetic nervous system activity during standard laboratory conditions. This is consistent with the notion that cerebral rather than limbic arousal is associated with conditionability. © 1992.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fredrikson, M; Georgiades, A

Published Date

  • January 1, 1992

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 13 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 1013 - 1020

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0191-8869

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0191-8869(92)90134-B

Citation Source

  • Scopus