THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PALMAR SWEAT INDEX AS AN APPLIED MEASURE IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY
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Five studies are described, examining the validity of the Palmar Sweat Index (PSI) as an alternative to traditional measures of electrodermal activity (EDA). A review of research using the PSI identified tour topics which needed to be addressed, before the PSI could be accepted as an alternative to measures of EDA. The first of these topics concerns the reliability of the PSI. A preliminary analysis confirmed that the PSI could be scored reliably. The second topic to be examined, was the relationship between the PSI and measures of EDA. The PSI was found to correlate significantly with several parameters of EDA. These results provide some support for models of EDA involving a single effector. More importantly, the PSI response was observed to show rapid recovery, and in one study the PSI was observed to show adaptation over the course of the session, while skin conductance level did not. The difference in the temporal patterning of the responses shown by the two measures provides an explanation for previous reports of a dissociation between the PSI and EDA. The final topics to be examined concerned the effects of psychological stress and anxiety, respectively, on the PSI. Stressful cognitive tasks were observed to lead to increased palmar sweating. Previous claims that the PSI may decrease in response to stress were not supported. More ecologically-valid stressors were less consistently associated with elevated levels of sweat gland activity. There was some support for a relationship between the PSI and experienced anxiety. It is suggested that this may explain the raised sweat gland activity observed during stressful tasks. Data are also presented from three collaborative studies. This data was collected by other workers and demonstrates the utility of the PSI for applied clinical research.
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