Details of Thesis

TitleThe Emotional Congruence of Experience and Bodily Change
Author Reeder, Matthew
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2001
Abstract This study examined the association of the experience of emotion and somatic changes. The study compared reported somatic changes generally experienced when anxious with the actual association of the experience of emotion and somatic changes as measured during a specific event. Emotions were measured as both general negative emotion as well as specific emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness and shame. Participants were volunteers from a Victorian university who agreed to watch a video depicting the dramatisation of child abuse. Throughout the video, participants indicated their experience of emotion. Measures were also taken throughout the procedure of facial expression and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). In order to examine emotional-congruence, subjects were divided into three groups. These groups were divided according to the congruence of subjects’ experienced emotion with autonomic changes and facial expressivity. Groups were divided separately for each of the emotion types. Where there was little difference between the reported experience of emotion and that, which would have been expected from the observed somatic changes, the subject was deemed to be in the Congruent Group. Subjects whose reported experience of emotion was greater or less than would be expected from observed somatic changes were allocated to the Over-reporter and Under-Reporter Groups respectively. This data was then compared to participants’ reports of the number of somatic symptoms usually experienced when anxious. It was found that participants who under-report the experience of general negative-emotion compared with their observed somatic changes (both GSR and facial expressivity) had lower trait-somatic-anxiety (reported fewer somatic symptoms usually experienced when anxious). There was no significant difference between the Congruent Group and Over-Reporter Group. The Under-Reporter Groups had significantly lower trait-somatic-anxiety than the Congruent Group when emotional-congruence was defined by fear and GSR, anger and GSR and sadness and facial expressivity. The actual association of shame and disgust with either somatic change, sadness with autonomic change and anger and fear with facial expressivity was unrelated to the number of somatic symptoms reported to be usually experienced when anxious. The results supported the idea that subjective reports of the number of somatic symptoms reported to be usually experienced when anxious reflect the actual association of somatic change and experience, but with limitations. The actual association of experience of fear with autonomic change seems to reflect the number of somatic symptoms reported to be usually experienced when anxious more than other emotions. Further for those for whom the experience of anger and negative-emotion has a greater association with somatic change, there was a greater number of somatic symptoms reported to be usually experienced when anxious. This would suggest that some people have a greater association of some experiences of emotion and somatic change. Furthermore, while there is an association between reported somatic changes generally experienced when anxious with the actual association of the experience of emotion and somatic changes as measured during a specific event, this was dependant on the association of the emotion types rather than being generalised for all emotions.
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