Magazine article USA TODAY

Physical Reactions Can Reveal Fear

Magazine article USA TODAY

Physical Reactions Can Reveal Fear

Article excerpt

In a study of reactions to a scary movie, researchers at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., found that some people will claim that they were not frightened, but physical measures indicate otherwise. Communication professor Glenn Sparks says the individuals who reported some of the lowest levels of fear may have been the most frightened. Those persons most likely to give a conflicting report are "repressive copers." They repress negative emotions as a way of dealing with unpleasant circumstances.

In the study, 59 students individually were shown segments of the suspense movie "When a Stranger Calls." Their physical arousal was recorded at specific intervals by body sensors monitored by a computer. Afterwards, the subjects were asked to rate their fear on a scale of 0 to 9. Previous psychological tests indicated that 30 of the students were repressors and 29 non-repressors. The repressors were likely to rate their level of fear during the film as low, but the physical measures for them were two to three times greater than those of non-repressors were. …

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