The Role of Exteroceptive Feedback in Learned Electrodermal and Cardiac Control: Some Attractions of and Problems with Discrimination Theory

  • Larry E. Roberts
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 2)


The purposes of this paper are threefold. The first is to outline a class of theories that attempts to explain how subjects learn to comply with an instruction to change an autonomic or central nervous system response during biofeedback training. These accounts are described herein as “discrimination” theories of biofeedback training, for the prominence they assign to perceptual processes in the acquisition of learned control (Black, Cott & Pavloski, in press; Brener, 1974; Staudenmayer & Kinsman, 1976). The second purpose is to illustrate the organizing power of discrimination theory by applying it to data which suggest that experience with an exteroceptive feedback contingency is required for the performance of instructed changes in palmar sweating, but not for the performance of instructed changes in heart rate. The last purpose is to discuss some of the difficulties that arise when one attempts to assess discrimination theory, and to comment upon the utility of the theory in relation to some other approaches to the study of biofeedback training.


Discrimination Task Skin Conductance Response Strategy Learn Control Untrained Subject 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Larry E. Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.McMaster UniversityCanada

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