Stopwatch or watch with a second indicator
Number of Subjects: Minimum of three
Time Per Subject: Fifteen minutes
Time for Experimenter: About an hour
BEFORE BEGINNING, READ THESE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Make sure that your
subject is seated comfortably, has been relaxing for at least ten minutes,
and did not engage in any strenuous exercise in the last half hour. Before
reading the instructions, make sure that you can find your subject's pulse
on his or her wrist. The unit for recording of the heart rate will be
a thirty-second interval. You will record the number of beats every thirty
seconds on the data sheet that you can download here.
Allow fifteen seconds to pass between each thirty-second interval of recording
so that you will have enough time to record the pulse and give instructions.
If you have an instruction to give to the subject (ex. "Relax,"
or "Think Anger"), give the instruction as soon as you have
recorded the pulse rate from the previous instruction, but wait the full
fifteen seconds before beginning to count the new number of heartbeats.
Read these instructions to your subject:
"This is a short, fifteen-minute experiment to determine how emotion
can affect the rate of the beating of your heart. When I say "Begin,"
you should close your eyes and relax, while I take your pulse. After a
minute, I will say "Think Anger," and you should think about
a situation in which you were extremely angry. After I record your pulse
I will say "Relax," and you should stop thinking about that
angry situation and relax again. I will take your pulse for another minute,
and then I will say "Think Fear." This time, you should think
of a time when you were extremely fearful. Following this one-minute episode
I will say "Relax," and you should stop thinking of this fearful
situation. This time, you should try to decrease your heart rate by thinking
of something that is relaxing or calming to you. I will take your pulse
for one final minute.
Before you begin the experiment, decide on each situation you will think
about for the anger activity and the fear activity. Let me know when you
have decided, and are ready to begin. After you have decided, stop thinking
about the images until I give you the instruction during the actual experiment."
Give your subject a few minutes to decide on the images, and then to stop
thinking about them before you begin the experiment. Wait one minute after
the subject has selected the images, to allow any effect that this may
have produced to subside. Then, begin. Record your data on the attached
data sheet. Be sure to list for each subject in the appropriate place
on the data sheet the basic situation that they imagined in each of the
conditions. Since heart rate is usually expressed as beats per minute,
double each of the numbers you have recorded to get the subjects' heart
rates in each condition. Be sure to turn in your data sheet with your
summary. A summary that does not include the data sheet will not be graded.
Plot the data for each of your subjects on a graph and include that with
your summary and data sheet. Use a different symbol for each subject,
and connect the symbols for each subject by lines.
Do all of your subjects show an ability to increase their heart rate by
thinking about a time when they were angry? Which procedure, anger or
fear, was more effective? Generally, lowering heart rate is much more
difficult. Can all of your subjects decrease their heart rate? What are
the implications of your findings for our ability as humans to control
some of our bodies response to stressful emotions?