Sociology Index


Electrodermal Activity is electrical activity of the sweat glands in the skin. Tests of electrodermal activity have indicated correlation between skin conductivity and tendency for deviant behavior, aggressiveness and criminal recidivism. Lie detectors or polygraph tests use electrical skin conductivity and heat rate to measure responses to questions.

The influence of anxiety on electrodermal activity and responses to distractors. Contrary to classical expectation, anxiety has been repeatedly observed to be associated with reduced electrodermal activity. This could be the result of successful coping. In line with this interpretation, high-trait anxious individuals performing moderately arousing tasks were expected to manifest a reduced responding to distractors, since this is an adaptive outcome. High- and low-trait anxious participants had to perform a visual search task in a low-stress context. Janick Naveteur, Stephanie Buisine, John H. Gruzelier.

Electrodermal Activity in Young Adults at Genetic Risk for Affective Disorder
Theodore P. Zahn, John I. Nurnberger, Jr, Wade H. Berrettini, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1989;46(12):1120-1124.
Low electrodermal activity has been proposed as a trait marker for affective disorder. We attempted to determine if low electrodermal activity could be a genetic marker by testing subjects at genetic risk for affective disorder. High-risk subjects, 22 offspring of a parent with bipolar affective disorder, and 27 lowrisk controls 15 to 25 years old had skin conductance recorded bilaterally during rest periods, presentation of 10 nonsignal tones, and performance of reaction-time and mental arithmetic tasks.

There were no significant differences in skin conductance levels under any condition or in the frequency or amplitude of orienting responses to nonsignal tones. During task periods high-risk subjects showed significantly greater electrodermal activity that was lateralized to the left hand. Self-rated depression was higher in the high-risk group during task periods. The low electrodermal activity is not a likely genetic marker for affective disorder but suggest that autonomic hyperresponsivity, atypically lateralized information processing, and depressive affect occur during mild stress in persons at risk for the development of affective disorder.

Electrodermal activity and temperament in preschool children
Abstract: This study had two objectives: To examine poorly understood patterns of young children's electrodermal reactivity and to test the hypothesis that this reactivity reflects individual differences in the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). We recorded skin conductance responses (SCRs) from 92 4-year-old children during a laboratory session that encompassed physiological and psychological stimuli. Physiological stimuli (breaths), moderately loud to loud sounds (expected and unexpected) and, to a lesser extent, stimuli with psychological significance elicited clear SCRs.