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Research Article

Psychometrische En Elektrodermale Aspecten Van Het Illusionaire Correlatie-Fenomeen: Enkele Paradoxale Gegevens

Authors:

Harald Merckelbach ,

Postbus 616 NL-6200 MD Maastricht, NL
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Marcel A. Van Den Hout,

Postbus 616 NL-6200 MD Maastricht, NL
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Peter De Jong

Postbus 616 NL-6200 MD Maastricht, NL
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Abstract

[Psychometric and Electrodermal Aspects of Illusory Correlations: Paradoxal Results]

 

Recent studies by Mincka and Tomarken (1989) show that high-fear subjects tend to overestimate the covariation of fear-relevant stimuli and aversive outcomes, i.e., report an illusory correlation. These authors suggest that illusory correlations play a crucial role in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders. Yet, the fact that high-fear subjects report illusory correlations does not necessarily imply that illusory correlations predispose to or maintain anxiety. To clarify this issue, an experiment (N = 24) was carried out in which normal, unselected subjects were confronted with a quasi-random series of three types of stimuli (snake or spider, mushroom, and flower). Stimuli were followed an equal number of times by three types of outcomes (tone, electric shock, nothing). Electrodermal reactions (SCRs) to the stimuli were recorded trough-out the experiment which contained 27 trials. Post hoc, subjects were asked to give conditional probability-estimates of all stimulus/outcome combinations. Two groups were then formed. One group (n = 10) consisted of subjects who reported an illusory correlation. The second group (n = 14) consisted of the remaining subjects. The illusory correlation-group displayed an overestimation only for the snake (spider)/shock association. Surprisingly enough, subjects in this group had significantly lower FQ scores and tended to have lower SCRs to snakes (spiders) than control subjects. It is hypothesized that the association between anxiety and illusory correlation is either positive or negative depending on the number of trials, with a small number of trials resulting in a negative association (due to hypervigilance of high-fear subjects) and a large number of trials resulting in a positive association (due to strong apriori judgments of these subjects). Alternative interpretations of the present pattern of results are discussed.

How to Cite: Merckelbach, H., Van Den Hout, M.A. and De Jong, P., 1989. Psychometrische En Elektrodermale Aspecten Van Het Illusionaire Correlatie-Fenomeen: Enkele Paradoxale Gegevens. Psychologica Belgica, 29(2), pp.135–148. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pb.794
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Published on 01 Jan 1989.
Peer Reviewed

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