Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Allan Berman


Twenty psychology graduate school subjects, ten males and ten females, established their own levels of aversity for two series of ten each unavoidable electric shocks, with each shock lasting 2.5 seconds and scheduled to be delivered automatically every 30 seconds. Condition #1 (high predictability) subjects could see a timer and know when 30 seconds had passed; Condition #2 (low predictability) subjects could not. All subjects could push a button and self-administer shocks at will. The data did not support the hypotheses that low-predictability subjects would self-administer more shocks and. would take less total time for the series of shocks. Females self-administered fewer shocks and took longer time in the low predictability condition, and these data were correlated with their higher scores on measures of anxiety. Subjects preferred to set their own levels of electric shock and set them higher than previously reported in the literature; subjects reported that they could have tolerated many more than the twenty shocks. These results and paper and pencil responses of post-tests of anxiety were interpreted as contributing valuable information to the sparse literature on punishment with human subjects.



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