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The effects of stimulus deprivation on stories told to thematic apperception test descriptions Thomson, Marguerite Charlotte


The purpose of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that stimulus deprivation leads to anxiety which, in turn, causes cognitive behavior to become impaired and disorganized. This hypothesis, which is derived from a model recently developed by Kenny (1959), assumes that anxiety produces a disruption in a person's schema (imaginative trains or sequences of thought) causing his schemata to be more constrictive and his cognitive functions, therefore, more disorganized. In addition, it is predicted that, as TAT pictures become more drive-structured (and, therefore, less ambiguous), anxiety will constrict the schemata of strong drive subjects, and the richness of their stories for a given drive should consequently decrease. In this study twenty female subjects in an experimental group were completely deprived of pattern vision and audio and tactual stimulation was partially eliminated. At the end of a twenty minute accommodation period members of both the experimental and the control groups were asked to tell stories around descriptions of six TAT cards which were arranged into three groups according to the amount of aggression found in each description (i.e. low, medium and high in aggressive content). The anxiety aroused by the experimental conditions was expected to be manifested in the stories of the experimental group. These stories would show greater disorganization, conflict and stereotypy than those given by a control group. Subjects in the experimental group would also introduce more aggression in stories given in response to medium aggressive cards, less aggression on high aggressive cards and the same amount as the control group in response to low aggressive cards. In addition, they would rate themselves higher on an anxiety questionnaire than would the subjects in the control group. Since eight out of fifteen predictions were borne out by the analysis, the results are interpreted as being partially in support of Kenny's model - that is, since experimental subjects rated themselves higher on the anxiety questionnaire, and introduced more aggression in their stories to the medium aggressive descriptions, it is believed that the condition of stimulus deprivation was successful in producing anxiety, which, in turn, caused a disruption in cognitive functioning. This disruption was witnessed in the organization and presentation of the stories given by the subjects in the experimental group.

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