October 1970

Response Specificity Among Muscular and Autonomic Variables

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training, Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago. Dr. Oken is now Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Upstate Medical Center, State University of New York, Syracuse.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;23(4):369-374. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01750040081012

AUTONOMIC response specificity refers to the tendency in some persons to respond autonomically primarily with one organ to various kinds of stimuli. Lacey and his coworkers1,2 were among the first to note that many subjects manifest this consistent idiosyncratic pattern of autonomic arousal. It has been subsequently demonstrated, with elaborations, by Wenger, et al3 Oken et al,4 Engel,5 and Crooks and McNulty.6 Goldstein et al7 showed that response specificity applied also to the skeletal muscles, with both level and change scores considered. One purpose of this communication is to use the data reported by Shipman et al,8 to consider whether response specificity applies to the skeletal musculature in a larger population sample.

Investigations of autonomic response specificity have usually stopped with the demonstration that it exists. What is the full significance of it? Do persons who overreact with a given muscle or autonomic

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