Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Shelton Hendricks

Second Advisor

Denis Fitzpatrick

Third Advisor

Raymond Millimet


This study assessed relationships among indices of modulation of stimulus intensity by the autonomic and central nervous systems, perceptual defense, and repressive coping. Subjects were twenty female and nine male paid volunteers between the ages of 19 and 38. Perceptual defense, defined as the difference in recognition thresholds for unpleasant versus pleasant words, was assessed with a tachistoscopic masking paradigm. Auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) were obtained in an augmentation reduction paradigm that evaluated cortical responses to discrete tones of varying intensity. Cardiac responses to these same tones were also obtained. Amplitude/intensity slopes were determined for P2 amplitudes obtained from the CZ electrode site, prestimulus to poststimulus heart rate change was determined for each tone intensity, and change/intensity slopes were calculated. Scores from Neuroticism and Lie Scales of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire were also obtained. Subjects were assigned to four groups of high and low Lie Scale scores and high and low Neuroticism Scale scores. High Lie Scale scores were associated with a reducing pattern of the P2 component of the AEP, and with increased recognition thresholds for unpleasant as compared to pleasant words. This relationship held regardless of scores on the Neuroticism Scale. There was a general trend for subjects to accelerate heart rate at three to four seconds post-stimulus. There were no between group differences with respect to heart rate acceleration. General conclusions about the physiological and perceptual components of coping style are presented and some theoretical implications of these conclusions are discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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