Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

By D. Alfred Owens; Mark Wagner | Go to book overview

6
Functionalism and Psychophysiology

ROBERT M. STERN

The early functional psychologists were eager to explore relations between physiological and mental processes and, as seen in the statement by Harvey Carr that opens this chapter, this curiosity extended to the "vegetative" or involuntary actions of the autonomic nervous system as well as to higher-order cerebral processes. Indeed, functional psychologists were among the first to propose that emotional experiences are contingent on involuntary bodily changes rather than the other way around ( James, 1890, Vol. 2, p. 449). Modern psychologists have continued to explore the interrelations of psychological events and the autonomic nervous system. This exploration has been greatly advanced by development of psychophysiological techniques for recording internal activities through electrodes placed on the skin. In this chapter, Robert Stern describes research on a rather distressing aspect of human experience, nausea. State-of-the-art recording techniques, combined with standard methods of experimental psychology, have enabled Dr. Stern and his associates to identify physiological changes in stomach activity that accompany sensations of queasiness and nausea. In addition to clarifying the processes involved in such experiences, this research opens new opportunities to predict and potentially to reduce one's susceptibility to nausea. Whereas most of Dr. Stern's research to date has been on motion sickness, it is particularly intriguing to consider possible applications to the nausea suffered by patients with diabetes or undergoing chemotherapy or experiencing other difficult medical problems.

DAO

Mental acts not only influence the vegetative processes by means of their neural connections, but . . . the organic activities in turn affect the

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