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Title: An experimental evaluation of the repression-sensitisation dimension
Author: Halperin, J. M.
Awarding Body: University College of Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1983
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Repression-Sensitization (R-S) theory assumes that individual differences in defensive behaviour can be conceptualized as falling along an approach-avoidance continuum. Located at the respective extremes of the continuum are repressers and sensitizers, the former avoiding and the latter approaching physical and psychological confrontation with emotionally disturbing stimuli. Approach-avoidance was defined as the percentage amount of time that Ss directed their gaze (recorded by a Mackworth eye mark camera) to previously designated emotionally provocative features of injury and sexual slides. Consistent with R-S theory, repressers tended to manifest less approach behaviour than did sensitizers, there were no significant differences between groups in direction of gaze for the neutral slides, and there were no significant sex effects. Contrary to the theory middle scorers and repressers were indistinguishable with respect to approach-avoidance behaviour. As previous research has indicated the relatively modest construct validity of the R-S scale, further experiments tested the hypotheses that the scale might more appropriately be conceptualized as a measure of the evaluation of emotionality, and that this variable might in itself be an important determinant of defensive behaviour. Evidence consistent with these hypotheses emerged for low scores (repressers) but was equivocal for the middle and upper range of the scale. In the latter case it was argued that the apparent inflexibility of sensitizers may have mitigated against obtaining data consistent with these hypotheses. It was concluded that the data had confirmed the usefulness of R-S theory and provided impressive evidence of the construct validity of the R-S scale. The data also indicated that the direction of gaze may be a particularly sensitive medium for the study of defensive processes. It was suggested that future studies might seek to establish the merits of an evaluation of emotionality conceptualization of the R-S scale.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available