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Stimulus-Response and Individual-Response Specificity

BERNARD T. ENGEL, Ph.D.
AMA Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1960;2(3):305-313. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1960.03590090061010.
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There has been an increasing interest among psychophysiologists in the question of how physiological response systems are organized. Some investigators have argued that autonomically mediated responses to stimulation are determined by the quality of the stimulus, whereas others have argued that the responses are idiosyncratic, i.e., independent of the stimulus and unique to the responder. A great deal of confusion has resulted from the fact that this issue has been phrased as an either-or question. The present study is an attempt to show that autonomic response patterns are a function of both stimulus and subject.

The issue is to a great extent confounded with the more general psychological problem of stimulus definition. If a stimulus is defined as that which the experimenter manipulates, then, obviously, all variations in responses occurring during repetitions of the stimulus must be attributed to changes within the individual subjects. If, on the

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