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[Abstract of] The Nature and Cause of the Galvanic Phenomenon

Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1911, 5, 120-123.


The galvanic phenomenon, or galvanometric deflections in response to sensory stimulations and induction of emotions, is regarded by almost all investigators of the subject as the function of bodily resistance; it is claimed that emotional and affective states tend to lower electrical resistance. In a series of experiments performed on human subjects, published in the PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW for September, 1908, and January, 1909, we have shown that we deal here not with resistance, but with the actual generation of an electromotive force. In a new series of experiments performed on animals this fact of generation of an electromotive force under the influence of stimulations and affective states is further confirmed and conclusively demonstrated.

        The proximate cause of the galvanic phenomenon has been ascribed to circulation, to glandular effects, to skin secretions, to changes of the sympathetic and central nervous systems and possibly to all of them combined. All these various hypotheses are frankly admitted by the investigators who advanced them to be only provisional, unsatisfactory guesses. In our experiments on animals we have by a rigid series of experiments eliminated skin secretions, circulation, effects of the sympathetic and central nervous systems, and have demonstrated that the galvanic phenomenon is of muscular origin.

        (The experiments last referred to will be published in the PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW for March, 1910.)


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