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Psychophysiological correlates of sensation seeking and socialization during reduced stimulation Cox, David Neil

Abstract

The main purpose of this research was to investigate the psychophysiological correlates of socialization and sensation seeking during a period of reduced stimulation. The subjects were male university students divided, on the basis of self-report measures of socialization and sensation seeking, into four groups of 14 subjects each: high socialization-low sensation seeking; low socialization-low sensation seeking; high socialization-high sensation seeking; low socialization-high sensation seeking. A fifth group consisted of 14 subjects with median scores on each scale. Continuous physiological recordings were made while each subject was exposed to 70 minutes of sensory isolation in an acoustically shielded room. In addition, self-report data on subjective experiences were obtained prior to and following the isolation. The need for stimulation and a deficiency in socialization have been experimentally and theoretically linked with antisocial behaviour. It was hypothesized that the low socialization-high sensation seeking subjects would bear some resemblance to the antisocial personality identified in criminal populations. The results indicated that compared with the other groups, these subjects admitted to a greater degree of alcohol and drug use, and to having a poorer academic and occupational history. Several of these subjects admitted having had criminal convictions. In general, the responses of the low socialization-high sensation subjects on the self-report and physiological measures were consistent with similar data obtained from inmate populations. During isolation they became drowsy and appeared to use reverie and perceptual distortion as sources of stimulation. They were disturbed by the physical restraints imposed by the recording devices. Despite this, they demonstrated autonomic stability throughout the experimental period. The results suggest that research on selected noncriminal populations might be a fruitful way of investigating antisocial behaviours in general. For example, it may be possible to identify factors that determine to what extent socialization and the need for stimulation influence the development of prosocial and antisocial behaviour.

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