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September 1962

Skin Resistance and Galvanic Skin Response: Influence of Surface Variables, and Methodological Implications

Author Affiliations

Markle Scholar in Medicine 1958-1963 (Dr. Burch).
Department of Psychiatry, Baylor University College of Medicine, and Houston State Psychiatric Institute.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1962;7(3):163-169. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1962.01720030009002

The convenience of the galvanic skin response (GSR) and basal skin resistance (R) as indicators of autonomic activity has led to their widespread application in psychological and pharmacological investigations since the late 19th century, but the many fundamental controversies to be found in the literature testify to the questionable reliability of these measures.1-4 They can nevertheless furnish dependable information about the level of sympathetic activity provided the various factors outside the nervous system which affect them are adequately controlled. These factors include skin temperature, current density, electrode composition and size, contact medium, and electronic circuitry as well as a miscellaneous group of variables.1,5-13 To help establish the requirements for insuring reproducible measurements, we have systematically studied some of these variables and have examined the findings against the background of existing literature. Some material reported elsewhere has been summarized here in the interest of