Cardiac Change as a Function of Attention to and Awareness of Continuous Verbal Text

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Science  23 Jun 1972:
Vol. 176, Issue 4041, pp. 1344-1346
DOI: 10.1126/science.176.4041.1344


A 17-minute passage taken from a patient's talking in a psychoanalytic interview was played to 40 subjects, including trained therapists, therapists in training, and inexperienced undergraduates. Subjects were alerted to the organizing theme (termination of the patient's treatment) and asked to attend to direct and indirect references to this theme. Tonic heart rate, averaged over 30-second periods, was lower when clues were present on the tape than during control periods when clues were not present. Profiles of phasic heart rate were drawn for 11-second periods that overlapped the end of each clue and control passage. Profiles associated with clues were significantly lower than profiles for control passages; profiles for recalled and recognized clues showed a wave form distinct from that of profiles associated with unrecognized clues.