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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Douglas Matheson

First Committee Member

J. Roseann Hannon

Second Committee Member

Gary N. Howells


The physiological and subjective effects of touch on individuals confronted with a physical stressor were investigated in a mixed two-factor study of 57 college-age women. Peak values and time course of several indices of autonomic nervous system activity (heart rate, frontalis EMG, and skin conductance) were monitored before, during, and after a 30-sec cold pressor task under three different touch conditions: no touch, touch-during, and touch-after the stressor. Experimental group members received a light stroking touch to their shoulder by the female experimenter for 30-sec. No touch (control) group members were guided through a 30-sec visualization exercise. Data analysis failed to support a theory of attenuated stress responding or facilitated recovery under either touch condition. However, equipment error and large within-subject variability may have masked the touch effects. Touch-during group members reported finding the stressor less aversive. Suggestions for future research contrasting static versus dynamic touch are discussed.



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