Biofeedback and Self-regulation

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 79–91 | Cite as

Expectancies of reinforcement control in biofeedback and cognitive performance

  • John G. Carlson
  • Joyce L. Feld
Original Articles


This study investigated the effects of expectancies concerning the controllability of outcomes in a biofeedback task. Forty-eight college undergraduates were subjects. Frontal (forehead) electromyographic (EMG) responses were measured during baseline (no treatment), pretreatment, and test sessions. During pretreatment, subjects were assigned to one of three groups. Using a fictitious blood vessel control task, the success group received false feedback and instructions that conveyed that outcomes had been successfully controlled. The failure group received feedback and instructions that conveyed that outcomes had not been controlled. A control group was given no specific task. During the subsequent test stage, all subjects were asked to reduce frontal muscle tension levels through relaxation while assisted with true EMG feedback. Relative to the success and control groups, EMG levels of the failure group reflected more rapid acquisition of frontal muscle relaxation. However, performance on a cognitive task was not affected by the pretreatment. It was concluded that expectancies generated during the false feedback pretreatment were related to later biofeedback performance. The results were discussed in terms of concepts of locus of control and theories of learned helplessness and reactance.


Cognitive Task Control Task Subsequent Test Muscle Tension Test Stage 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • John G. Carlson
    • 1
  • Joyce L. Feld
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HawaiiHonolulu

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