Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




The relationship between the autonomic nervous system and various personlity characteristics has become a popular area of scientific investigation with the advent of accurate means of measurement of autnomic nervous system activity. The act of measuring autonomic nervous system activity carries great clinical value. Clinicians practicing systematic desensitization use the galvanic skin resistance -as an indication of whether the stimulus in question produces too much· anxiety for the client. The clinician, of course, also relies on the client's verbal response. Measurement of galvanic skin resistance provides additional information for the clinician. The clinician can draw from more than one response, while choosing the subsequent stimulus. Since the measurement of autonomic activity is a valuable part of the practice of clinical psychology it would behoove psychologists to continue to gather information concerning the relationships between autonomic activity and personality so hat they add to the ways there are of using such relationships.

Heart rate variability, an index of spontaneous bursts of cardiac acceleration or aperiodic oscillation of heart beats while an individual is at rest (Lacey and Lacey, 1966), is a measure of autonomic activity that does not enjoy widespread clinical usage like galvanic skin resistance, but conceivably could. Presently, the relationships between heart rate variability and personality characteristics are still under scrutiny. Researchers ·have examined the relation­ ship between heart rate variability and various percep­tual-motor and cognitive skills. These researches made statements linking heart rate variability to impulse control when they noticed certain groups of Ss behaving impulsively during the tasks. Yet the fact remains that the conclusions made were not drawn from tests designed to measure impulse control. It is the intent of this study, therefore, to further investigate the relation­ ship between heart rate variability and impulse control, employing for the first time, a test specifically designed to measure impulse control.

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