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Cognitive Response to Stressful Stimuli

Mardi J. Horowitz, MD; Stephanie S. Becker
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(5):419-428. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750170035007.
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Experimental stress research has identified few, if any, consistent cognitive responses to stress. The present study was based on the hypothesis that intrusive and repetitive thoughts would increase with stress, a hypothesis based on psychoanalytic observations of symptoms after trauma and validated in previous experiments. The present study used the same paradigm as previous experiments: A stress film was used as a replicable stress event and introspective data from 20 female subjects was quantified by self-report and content analysis methods. In this study, however, a different stress film, subject sample, and context for obtaining introspective reports was used. Again, significantly more intrusive and stimulus-repetitive thoughts occurred after the stress film; this effect was reduced, but not eliminated, by a brief discussion received at random by half of the subjects after the stress film. Skin resistance measurement did not relate well to cognitive changes.

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