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November 1971

Cognitive Response to Stressful Stimuli

Author Affiliations

San Francisco
From the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Zion Hospital and Medical Center, San Francisco.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(5):419-428. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750170035007

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.