Title: Repression-sensitization and psychological adjustment
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097871/00001
 Material Information
Title: Repression-sensitization and psychological adjustment
Physical Description: vi, 81 leaves. : illus. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Pehle, John William, 1939-
Publication Date: 1966
Copyright Date: 1966
Subject: Repression (Psychology)   ( lcsh )
Adjustment (Psychology)   ( lcsh )
Psychology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 77-80.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097871
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000574350
oclc - 13853915
notis - ADA1716


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April, 1966


The author wishes to express his sincere appreci-

ation to Dr. Audrey S. Schuracher for her invaluable

encouragement and guidance throughout the many phases of

this research. He also wishes to thank the other raorbers

of his comnitttoe Drs. Ricnard J. Anderson, Denjamin

Barger, C. Davis, Jr., and John T. Stone for their

interest and helpful suggestions. Particular thms are

offered to Dr. Charles W. torris, %ho served as an addi-

tional member of the committee and helped the author

explore somS of the philosophical questions involved in

this area of research.



ACI1OWIY DGMiNTS . . . . . . .

LIST OF TABSES. . . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . .


I. I*TTODUCTION... . . . . . .

The Concepts of Repression and
Sensitization . . . . .

The Relation of Mode of Defensive
Behavior to Adjustment. . .

New Techniques and Findings: The
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory (MWPI) Repression-
Sensitization (R-S) cales. . .






Research Suggesting a Linear Relation-
ship to Adjustmnt. . . . .

Recent Attempts to Use the MNPI to
Define and IMmmre Repression-
Seaiitization: A Closer Look .

A Summary of the Problems and Questimon
Raised by This New Line of Research .

Research and Theory Suggesting a Curvi-
linear Relationship to Adjustment .


. . ii

. o v

. . vi

* 1

* 1

S 3

S 3

S 6

* 6





S. . 22

0 a 9 0 9 9 9 a a a a a a 0

Subjects .* . . a

Test Materials and Experimental
Apparatus . ....,

Procedure.. . . . .

Experimental Hypotheses. .

V. rtrSULTS . . . . . . .

VI. DISCUSSION . . . . .

VII. SUMMARY . . . . . .

APPFBDIX A. . . . .. . .

APPENDIX B. . . o . a . ..

APPEfIDIX D. . . . . . . .
APWNDIX D. a a a a a a a a a a a a .

RFElfECES. . . . . . . . .



..... 25
. . . 29

. . . 36

. . . 38

. . . 53

a.aa a 64

. . * 71

.* . 72

.* . 73

* . .. 75

* 77

.... 81


Tables Page

1. Mann-Whitney U Tests of Differences Among
the Ranks of Adjustment Scores for the
Three Perceptual Groups . . . 41

2. Mann-Whitney U Tests of Differences Among
the Ranks of Adjustment Scores for the
Three MPI Groups. . . . ... .. 45

3. Mann-Whitney U Tests of Differences Among
the Ranks of Value-Feeling Difference
Scores for Groups R and S and Groups R'
and S . . . . . .. . . 50


1. Frequency distribution of the tachistoscopic
acor*e . . . . . . . 39

2. Graphic presentation of the mean CPI
standard scores of the tachistoscopic
represser, neutral and sensitiser sub-
groups. (N for each group = 7.) 44

3. Graphic presentation of the mean CPI
standard scores of tachiatoscopic and
MMPI represser, neutral and sensitizer
groups. (N for each group 21.). .. 47

4. Graphic presentation of the mean value-
feeling incongruency difference scores
of the tachistoascopic and HMPI re-
presser, neutral and sensitizer groups.
(N for each group ya 21.) . . . . 49

5. Frequency distribution of the mean CPI
standard scores. ... ... .. 52



The Conceptc of Pepreossin and Sensitination

Thser concepts which have been widely employed in

rorent research have their e.xprinm.ental origins in the rer-

ceptual defense stutlicu of the late forties and early fif-

tice. Postman, Bruner, and MrGinnies (1948) introckced

the term perceptuall defense" as "a principle to account

for variations in the recognition thresholds for tachirto-

scopically presented value words." They used the term

"rercoptual defense" to account for their finding of high

recognition thresholds for low value words and enployecd

the term "perceptual sensitization" to account for the

existence of low recognition thresholds for high value


In the following decade the research which focused

on this topic was primarily of three types: the demonstra-

tion of differential recognition thresholds for matched

pairs of neutral and emotionally toned Ptisili, attempts to

explain these data, and the investigation of the corre-

lates of individual difference in responding to tachicto-

scopic and recall tasks. While articles of the first two

types have been the focus of a great deal of controversy,

the third has involved a consistently growing body of evi-

dence. Tho significance of these findings for personality

theory and their frecdon from many of the criticism of

the early work on perceptual defense has been srtrnerod by

Erikoen (1954), Weiner (1955), and Bruner (1957).

Although terminology has differed ron,'ewhat across

experiment, results with many different response rnasurps

suggest that individuals fall along a continuum with

respect to the characteristic way in vhich they respond

to threatening stimuli.

Byrne (1961) described one end of this continuum

as behavior mechanisms of a predominantly avoiding (deny-

ing, repressing) tTyp" and the other extreme of the contin-

uun as "predominantly approaching (intellectu.alizing,

obsessional) behaviors." In research employilvn differen-

tial recognition thresholds for emotionally toned vs. nou-

tral stiuli the terms "repressor" and "sonsitizer" have

been used to describe the extremes of this dimension.

Individuals in the former category are defined as those

having a relatively elevated threshold for emotionally

toned material and in the latter as those having a rela-

tively lower threshold for such material.

To f.elation of Mode of Defenivye ehlvior
to Adjustment

Much of the research donn on perceptual defense

as well as most current theories of personality and defen-

sive behavior would suggest that repression-rensitization

is related to adjustment in a curvilinear manner. Irithor

obsessional concern with conflicts nor total selective

denial of them should result in optimal adjustment.

New Tech niim-s and Fincinas: Th 2 tinnpsota
IMltiRhasic Personality Inventorv (MDMPI)
represRion-ensit.izat-ion (R-S) SScaqn

In order to study more economically the person-

ality correlates of the repression-rensitization dimen-

sion, Altrccchi, Parsons, and Dickoff (190O) used a com-

bination of six IMPI scales to create an IMPI scale of

defensive behavior (D + Pt + Welsh Amnxiety scores sub-

tracted from the total of L + K + Hy denial). Byrne (1961)

statistically refined this scale and titled it "The

Prprescion-rensitization Fcale." Dyrne's scalo has e n

extensively used in the lst five years and is now by far

the most frequently employed measure of repression-


Attempts to uoe ;yrnc' MMPI i]-S Scale in e:ploring

the relation between type of defensive behavior and adjust-

ment have led to sone results ich are curprining in rela-

tion to our most widely accepted theories of dcfensive

behavior and personality cdevoloprcnt. In attempting to

study the childrearing antecedents of r-S, Dyrne (1964)

found that repressers tended to have experienced a ho:-.

atmosphere characterized by accoptanco, confidence, and

consistency while ronsitizers had a lers favorable early

hoa. environment.

In a more recant study focused on the relation be-

twren P-S and adjustment (Dyrne, Colightly, and Shefficeld,

in press), the California Psychological Inventory (CPI)

was given to groups of repressers, neutrals, and sonnitiz-

ers ford on the basis of their scores on te L'-PI r-S

Scale. The results indicated that repression-sensitization

is related to adjustw-ent in a linear manner. Pepresrers

wore found to be significantly better adjusted than either

neutrals or sensitisers, and neutrals were found to Xb

better adjusted than sensitizers.

The present study is an attempt to separate more

clearly the variables of represrion-sensitization and

psychological adjustment khich have been seriously con-

founded in recent research. The relationship between

style of defensive Ibhavior and level of psych-nological

adjustment will be examined. Research findings which

bear on the relationship lbtween repression-sensitization

and psychological adjustment and fwich are of sicnificance

to the present investigation are reviewed in the next




?ca9earch Sucmrentitfl LiLag Rellatiornship
to A_ 3justsmnt

Research suggesting a linear relationship between

reprersion-sensitisaticn and adjustment will be presented

first because of the recent foxum that has been placed

upon these findings in the psychological literature.

During ~ last five years much of the research on

methods of defernsivr behavior has involved the MPI. Re-

search employing the MMPI scales of R-S has usually indi-

cated that repression-sensitization is related to adjustment

in a linear manner. Pepressers have been found to be sig-

nificantly better adjusted than neutrals, and neutrals have

been found to be significantly better adjusted than sensi-


Byrne, Barry, and Nelson (1963) fond r-S scores

(high scores indicate seneitisation, low scores indicate

repression) to be positively related to self-ideal dis-

crepancy on Worchel's Self Activity Inventory. They also


found R-S to he positively related to a measure of value-

feeling incongruency. relf-ideal discrepancy ha been

used as a measure of psychological adjustment (Rogers and

Dymond, 1954). McReynolds (1956, 195f) found anxiety, as

measured by the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (HAS) and

other indicators, to have a high positive correlation with

measures of valuc-feeling incon;ruoncy. Thus, the ryrno,

Carry, and Nelson results were offered as providing EroW

support for the hyIothcsis that repression-sensitieation

is related to adjustment in a linear riannrr.

Another area of research interest has been that of

the developmental conditions 4hich lead to different defen-

sive patterns. nyrne (1964) attempted to determine the

childrearing antecedents of R-S. Three attitude surveys

were given to groups of extreme repressers and of extreme

sensitizern and to their mothers. In this way Byrne sought

to obtain measures of mothers' attitudes, the subjects' own

childrearing attitudes, and finally the subjects' percep-

tion of maternal attitudes. In sulmarizing the results of

this study, ,yrnre concludes

Contrary to the general hypotheses advanced
earlier, the repressers appear to have ex-
perienced a hore atmosphere characterized by
permissiveness, acceptance, and confidence

in which the mother was cons itent and hib h
in self-ostnee: and in which the parents had
a positive affective relationship with one
another. The home of the sensitizers, on
the contrary, wa restrictive and rejecting,
the offspring lackr confidence in taking on
the role of the parent, the mother was
inconsistent and low in relf-onteem, and
the parents had a negative affective rela-
tionship with one another.

Dyrne further stated that:

If these findings were to be supported by
further research, present conceptualizations
about the antecedents of repression-
sensitization . would need to be altered

The CPI (Gougch, 1957) used as a criterion of

adjustment in perhaps the most surprising and provocative

research to date (Byrno, Golirhtly, and Sheffield, in

press). In contrast to the puychodiagnostic orientation

of the lPI, the CPI focuses on areas of behavior equally

relevant to the normal population. The CPI is scored in

such a way that high scores indicate txtter adjustment

than low scores. flecause there are normn available for the

CPI, it is possible t-o lot mean profiles for nensitizers

and reprcssero in order to compare them directly with

Gouqh's standardization sample.

The results indicated that represners are t Iwest

adjusted of the three, the rensitizers the nost maladjusted,

while neutrals fall between the two defensive? groups.

Also, "The repressers were found to fall at or above the

nean on most variables. Once again the data fail to

support the curvilinearity hypothesis."

Byrne, Goliqhtly, and Sheffield (in press) stato

that most of the research to date suggests that the R-S

Scale relates to adjustrnnt in a linear fashion. In

addition to the above studies, sensitizers have been found

to respond more deviantly to Cough's adjective c.eck list

than do repressers (Byrne, 1961), sensitisers are more

anxious than repressers with anxiety measured by the Taylor

Manifest Anxiety Scale (HAS) (Joy, 1963), and sensitisers

appear less well adjusted than roprcssers on four of the

MMPI clinical scales (D, Mf, Pt, Si) (Joy, 1963).

Much of this evidence appears to be of a circular

nature *ien we recall that sensitisers are defined by

P.yrne as those individuals amho have high scores on the MMPI

scales of D, Pt, and the Welsh Anxiety Scale.

Pecent AtteSprts to Use the MMPI to Define
and Mearo _ro Pepromp ion-Si nit nation t
A Closer pok

Gordon (1957) was one of the first to use the MMPI

to form group of sensitimers and represeers. He defined

repressors as having "high defensiveness and little mani-

fest anxiety" and sensitizers as having "little defensive-

ness and a great deal of anxiety." le later defined a

sensitizer as a person who is anxious and has relatively

few defenses. On the basis of these questionable defini-

tions he justified the use of an MMPI anxiety-defensive-

ness measure (roughly the relation of K and L scale scores

to MAS scores) to form repression-sensitization groups.

(High positive scores were defined as indicative of

repressive behavior while high negative scores were defined

as sensitization.) As an additional measure he used dif-

ferential recall of threatening and nonthreatening material

bt reported: "We od little relationship between the

anxiety-defensiveness ratio and differential recall

(r = -.12, p > .10)."

Altrocchi, Parsons, and Dickoff (1960) used six

MPI scales to form a scale of repression-sensitization.

Their measure was an index in which the total of the D +

Pt + Welsh Anxiety Scores was subtracted from the L + K +

Hy denial total. They offered little support for their

selection of scales beyond that of face validity. They

stated that the L and K scales were used "to be consistent

with Cordon (1957)." The D and Welch Anxiety scales were

used "to lessen the likelihood of measurement error" and

the Pt scale "has traditionally been used."

Dyrne (1961) in refining and naming the Altrocchi

scale cited twelve previous studies showing correlations

between "sensitizing and repressive behavior" and individual

scales of the M'MI. Often what was described as sensitiz-

ing and repressive behavior could only loosely be defined

as such and frequently the correlation with individual

scales was not of a great magnitude. With regard to the

use of the D scale no empirical evidence was cited what-

soever. At any rate, a series of individual correlations of

varying magnitude with loosely defined behaviors seems

insufficient support for the use of the MMPI R-S index as

an operational definition of repression-sensitization.

The strongest support for the R-S Scale is that of

face validity. The R-S Scale can be questioned in this

area also from a nurmer of different points of view.

Christie (1963) describes tho P-S Scale as "a reliable but

ambiguous personality dimension." In discussing the scale

he states:

The rationale for this identification is again
based on the face content of the items. On
the L, 1K and Dn (Ily denial) Scales high scores

do indeed indicate denial of ordinary foibles,
chortcomingjs, inconsistencies, or personal
problems, while high scores on the D, Pt, and
A Scales indicate admission of cuch problelc.

Despite the abovo mentioned iifficultion Byrne's

scale did represent an improvement over the Altrocchi

scale. Dyrne eliminated the rmultiple wAightinr of rome

of tho itemr scored on two or nore of the originally used

PIlPI scales, eliminated altogether item keyed inconsin-

tently in te original scale combination, and keyed all

of the items so that high scores indicate Pensitization

and low scores indicate repression.

Christie (1063) nucgests further possible diffi-

culties involved in th Byrne ncale. He points out that

in the 155-item scale, 115 of the items are keyed "true."

Tius consistent "nayrayinq" on both ets of scales %rould

result in the label "represser," while consistent "yea-

naying" would result in the label "sensitizer." In addli-

tion to this interpretation in terms of response bias the

scores might equally be orplained in ter.s of "social


Therefore, despite the widespread acceptance

use of this scale there seems only weaT: and indirect evi-

dence that it is a valid measure of reprension-sensitiza-


A Suz ary of the PProblnems and t.. Qst ions
Paised by ThiF Now Line of RFCeearch

Although the MMPI has been used to measure repres-

sion-sensitization in a nu Owir of different ways, the

Byrne R-S Scale is the most refined MMPI measure and has

been the most widely used.

The n-S Scale has had a strong attraction as a

research instrument for many psychologists in the area of

personality. This appears to be the result of a number

of possible advantages involved in the research use of

this scale:

1. It yields a reliable, quantitative measure of

a hopefully significant personality variable.

2. It is derived from the MMPI, a widely used

test in colleges and universities. This allows rela-

tively economical procedures in the acquisition and hand-

ling of data.

3. The repression-mensitiuation dimension appears

to be a basic and central one with regard to defensive


4. A significant a-ount of research has already

been carried out in the area of perceptual defense and

Ponsitization Which is said to be the experimental basis

of precont repression-rensitization research and theorizin:.

The central problems involved in the construction

of the P-S fcale and its use in research in the area of

adjustment appear to be the following:

1. There in conflicting and weak evidence 'with

regard to the validity of the R-S Scale.

2. Considerable circularity is involved in usinr

the P-S Scale to study the relation of type of defensive

b-ohavior to psychological adjustment.

3. The scale might perhaps as validly be inter-

preted as a rmasure of rreponse not or as a measure of

social desirability.

PT'Pearch and _Theory .ucnatostinrc a Curvilinear
Relationship to Adi ,ntnent

evidence from rercnptual
defense reonarch

Research involving perceptual and learning tasks

has suggested that neither repression nor sensitization

is related to optimal adjustment.

rrik:sen (1951) tachistoscopicnlly presented aggres-

sive and nonacgressive scenes and correlated these results

with performance on tho Thematic ApTnrception Test (TAT).

Ile found that for subjects who ooployed perceptual defense

for aggressive stimuli there were few stories with aqgren-

sive themes on the TAT (and the opposite trend for sensi-

tizers). However, the TAT protocols of the repressive

subjects evidenced blockingq, inaccurate interpretation,

and incoherent, unelaborated stories."

Lazarus, friksen,and Fonda (1951) report similar

findings using sexual and hostile sentences presented to

subjects on a tape with a white noise backgrociund. The sub-

jects were classified as intellectualisers or repressers

by interview and case history data. They found those

classified as intellectualizers to have "high i erreptual

accuracy and ready verbalization" and those classified as

repressors to have "low perceptual accuracy and minimal

verbalization with blocking."

Chodorkloff (1954) tested the hypothesis that "the

more adequate the personal adjustment of the individual

(as defined by judges' ratings of projective tests and a

chock list) the jlje perceptual defense he will show." HIM

used 100 words, all of wAich were five-letter words and

all were equated for word frequency as determined by the

Thorndike-Lorqe Word List (1944). Fomer of the words had

been judged "emotional" and aome judged "neutral." He

obtained the word association reaction tines for each

individual. le then tachistoscopically presented to each

subject ten emotional words for %thich he had had long

reaction times and ton neutral words for which he had had

short reaction tinrs. Chodorkoff believed that this ado-

quately represented "personally relevant threatening and

neutral stimuli." Ilis results der nstrated that loes per-

ceptual defense was shown by individuals judged to have a

more adequate personal adjustment. As Byrnc'r mcnrure of

repression is supposedly analocuous to perceptual defense,

this study forces one to question seriously Dyrne's recent

finding that roprecscrs are optimally adjusted.

Evidence directly porta initno
to the fMlPI R-S Scale

There is some research to suggest that the IEMPI

I'-C Scale (ignoring for the moment the claiestion of the

validity of the scale and its confounding with adjustment)

is not itself related to adjustment in a linear manner.

Dyrne, Barry, and Noelon (1963) suggest that the

positive correlations between P-S (the R-S Scale) and relf-

ideal discrepancy may be support for a linear relationship

between ".-S and adjustment. A rtudy carried out by DMoclk

and Thomas (1955) sugq~sts, however, that self-ideal

discrepancy may itself be related to adjustment in a

curvilinear manner. Further evidence of this was given

by Friedman (1955) tho reported positive correlations

between self-and ideal ratings of normals, neurotics, and

paranoid schizophrenics as follows:

Normal .63

rNurotics .03

Paranoid Schizophrenics .43

recentt research has also suggested that Eyrne's

linear results may be partially due to the nature of the

adjustment measure. Davison (1963), iloinjg Byrne's R-S

Scale, obtained verbal and physiological measures from sub-

jacts who watched a stressful movie depicting a primitive

ritual. :e found that sensitizers (W..., the pcnritizer

is partially defined by Byrne as one o'ho scores high on

Welsh Anxiety Scale) indicated greater anxiety than the

repressers on the verbal measures but the represrers showed

greater upset than the sensitizers on the physiological

indices (measures of skin conductance, heart rate, and

bodily moveamnt).

Thus the linear results obtained with the R-S

Scale, as Byrne (in press) has acknowledged, may be par-

tially due to the fact that repressers will use repressive

defeneon when cgivirg a verbal report of their level of

adjustment. Sensitizers, on the other hand, are likely

to focus upon and overemphasize their problems in a direct

verbal report. The relationship of perceptual cefenso to

porfornance on projective tests has been explored by

rriksen and Lazarus (1952).

There appear to be two possible ways to deal with

and explore this problem:

1. The use of adjustment ransures which
would correspond to different degrees
of awareness of personal threat.

2. The use of adjustment neasurcs other
than direct, conscious verbal report.

Stain (1953) ensured perceptual defense and

nensitization (as defined by recognition thresholds for

aggressive pictures) under neutral and involved rresenta-

tions. His finding of "an accentuation of the preferred

defence under the involved condition" euqqgsts that the

uso of toh CPI to measure adjustrent (because it is a

conscious self-evaluation tyre of instrument) nay be load-

ing to an extreme self-Cescription for both groups. That

is, both the sensitiners and the repressers are likely to

be personally involved whcn taking the CPI, and their

tendency to maximize and minimize their verbalized prob-

lets will be at the extreme also.

Personality theorv and
rferel~ ion-rensit iation

The relationships between mode and degree of

defensiveness, awareness of personal threat, and level

of adjustment is a complex one. Repression-sensitization

can be seen as a continuum with resapct to the character-

istic way in which individuals respond to threatening

st iul i.

The ex:treeno of this dimension have been chnrac-

terized by Eriksen (1952) as:

1. Denial and repression producing avoidance.
An attempt to keep the stiniluc from
awareness and to deny external reality.

2. An attempt to rationalize or explain
away the threat, or project outward.
Not a denial of external reality but a
denial that this reality applies to the

Thun when either of these modes of defense in carried to

an extreme the individual is unable to face directly and

deal with his conflicts and problem.

From many theoretical points of view (c.c.,

Freudian psychoanalytic, Rorerian awareness and acceptance,

Mc:eynold's value-feeling incongruency theory) it follows

that an extreme use of repression or sensitization will

lead to the denial to awareness of a wide range of experi-

ences and thin, in turn, will lead to poor psychological

adjustment. Neither massive Cdnial nor obsessional con-

corn with one's conflicts is likely to load to optimal


Both previous research (e.g., Stein, 1953) and the

psychoanalytic theory of defensive behavior would further

suggest that an individual's preferred mode of defense will

be accentuated under conditions of increased personal

threat. That is, as the individual's perceived personal

threat is increased he will use his defenses in a more

extreme and rigid manner. The represser will repress to a

greater degree and the sensitizer will sensitize to a

greater degree when under increased stress. If this is

the case, we must take into account the operation of

psychological defenses when we attempt to measure adjust-

ment via verbal report. If the distorting effect of defen-

sive behavior is not controlled or measured in some manner

we will obtain a misleading picture of the level of psycho-

logical adjustment of groups differing in mode of defen-

sive behavior.

From the above theoretical position it would follow,

for example, that repressers in taking the CPI would "fake

good" and that the sensitizers would "fake bad."

In usa~ary, oior most widely accepted theories of

personality suggest that:

1. Repression-sensitization is related to ad-

justment in a curvilinear manner.

2. An individual's preferred moda of dofnnse

will be accentuated under conditions of increased personal

threat. Thin, in turn, will affect his m asured level of




The present experiment represents an attempt to

separate more clearly two variables that have been acri-

ously confounded in recent personality research: mod of

defensive behavior and level of psychological adjustment.

The purpose of the experiment is to re-examine

the relationship between repression-sensitization and ac-

justment by operationally defining repression-sensitiza-

tion in such a way as to avoid the circularities and

confounded variable involved in recent research in this


The second part of the investigation focuses upon

the problems involved in using a personality inventory to

measure the adjustment of groups differing in style of

defensive behavior. Tho relationship between style of

defensive behavior and the degree of Iroreonal threat and

subject awareness involved in measures of adjustment will

be examined as an indirect way of determining the effect

of defensive behavior uron performance on a personality

inventory. The condition representing, increased awareness

of personal threat has been constructed so ns to make it

similar to the threat cxrerienced by a sh.-ject taking a

personality inventory.

The study proposes to test the following hypotheses:

Hliythesi I: The relationship between a con-

trolled perceptual measure of repression-sensitization and

the KMPI R-S Ccale is not of a sufficient uagnitucfd to

justify the use of the R-S Scale as an operational defini-

tion of perceptual repression-nensitization.

yIvpothasin II: Perceptual repression-sensitization

is related to psychological adjustrmnt in a curvilinear


Hypotheais III: Pepression-sensitisation as ean-

sured by the MPIMl R-S Scale is related to psychological

adjustment in a linear manner.

Hypothesis IV: An individual's preferred mode of

defense will lbe accentuated under conditions of increased

awareness of personal threat.



Subjei cts

The subjects wero 27 nmle and 36 feamle students

enrolled in undergraduate introductory psychology courses

at the University of Florida. Their participation in the

experiment fulfilled one of the requirements of the

psychology courses.

Vo:: the y:rpose of statistical analysis the G3

subjects were divided into groups of 21 repressers, 21

neutrals, and 21 ce.nitizers on the basis of their rpr-

formance on a perceptual task. The subjects wore also

divic d into equal groups of repressers, neutrals, and

censitizers on the basis of their MMPI -S -Scorcs. The

detailed selection criteria and procedures are rronented


Test Materials and Experirmental Apparatus

The test materials and apparatus employed in the

experiment consisted of the following:

1. A word list containing 37 words previously

judged to be "neutral" and 37 words previously judged to

be "emotional" (adapted from Chodorkoff, 1954). This

word list is composed of five-letter words selected on

the basis of (1) equivalent frequency of usage as deter-

mined by the Thorndike-Lorge Word Lists and (2) agreement

among four judges as to the classification of each word.

The original list used by Chodorkoff contained

50 neutral and 50 emotional words. Upon inspection it

appeared that a significant number of the emotional words

could be described as having a "social taboo" connected

with their spoken use. It seemed likely that subjects,

particularly female subjects, would be likely to suppress

their response on the tachistoscopic task because of the

social taboo. If this were the case, the measure of per-

ceptual defense would be contaminated by the subject's

response to the social situation. Much of the controversy

in the 1940's and 1950's about perceptual defense focused

on the effect of word frequency and the so-called "dirty

word" effect.

An attempt was nade to control the possible con-

t-rminatini effect of .suppression by l iminoatinr tbe imore

extreme socially taboo words. Four judges (two nalo

psychologists and two fennle psychiatric social workers)

wero presented the original word li:t and instructed to

select "the fifteen emotional words that you think winld

mot likely cause a subject (University of Florida uner-

graduate student] to withhold his response .en that word

wap prernnted tachistoccopically because of the 'social

taboo* associated with speaking that word."

The words most frequently nolected by the judlger

vwre dropped fron the word list. Words were airo dropped

when there was judge' agreement that the word ws no

longer in frequent use or was likely to be midundcerstood

when rend aloud in the reaction time procedure. Chodor-

koff's word list and the revised word list %hnich was

ieployed in this experiment are presented in Appendix A.

2. A tone -rcorder. voice-Tov, and electric tinrr.

These devices were employed to obtain accurate ascociation-

reaction times for the emotional and neutral words.

3. A Harvard Tachistosconpe. This instrument was

used in the perceptual task involving the emotional and

neutral words.

4. The Revimsd W.P! P-S Scale (Byrne, 1963).

The scale in composed of 127 items drawn from the MMlI

and 55 buffer items also taken from the WMPI. The scale

is labeled "A health and Opinion Survey." Hliqh scores

indicate Eensitization and low scores indicate repression.

(See Chapter II for a description of the development of

this scale.)

5. The Californip Psycholoqical Irnventory (Gotiqh,

1957). The CPI is a personality inventory consisting of

40 True-False items. Approximately 200 of the items

were drawn from the MPI, which further confounds the

study carried out by Dyrne, Golightly and Sheffield (in

press). The inventory yields 18 individual scales, each

of wu'iich is scored so that high scores indicate better

adjustment than low scores.

The test is well constructed and, given the limi-

tations of personality inventories, appears to he a valid

measure of general level of adjustment. Cron!ach (1959)

in describing the CPI, writes:

The development and technical work on this
ncale are of a hiqh order. The reliabilities
were carefully determined by retesting.
Validity of each scale wae determined by
conparingr groups tlich the scale presumably

ought to discrir.inateo dozens of cross
validities on sizable samplsn are reported.
The manual is in sore respects a modab
for personality inventories.

There are problems, however, involved with the

use of the CPI to rnasnre adjustment of groups differing

in style of defensive behavior. The adjustrent scores

on the inventory are likely to be affected by the differ-

itg defensive behavior of the reprecser and the senMi-

tizer. Crontach (1959) states: "The CPI is not appreci-

ably less direct than other questionnairess on adjustment

and character. Twelve of the original scales wCore rrch

affected by a desire to- fake good or bad." Cronbach

concludes that, "Despito the complex: manner in 4.hich keys

were developed, the test rust Ihe regarded as no rmoro than

a tabulation of overt self descriptiona"

6. Value-feelina; inconxruncy ratiina forrn and

a value-feolir;q rating box. Incongruencies retwoeen

values and feelings have been found to be related to

anxiety. Mereynolds (1958) carried out a study in which

cubjecto were asked to indicate for a seriCe of items

(5 statements %wre colcctod thich referred to kinds of

experience, events, and relationships alout which

incongruencies night exist, e.g., "to fight," "jyself,"

etc.) what their evaluations (good-bad) and What their

feelings (like-dislike) were. A discrepancy score was

defined as the extent of the differences between these

two ratings. Each subject thus received a global rating

of value-feolinc incongruency. Anxiety was estimated

by means of self-ratings, interviewer ratings, and the

Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. Significant positive

correlations between the measures of anxiety and the

measure of valuc-feelinq incongruency were found.

Thirty-five items were selected from McPoynolds'

value-feeling incongruency forms to be used in the

present experiment.


Each of the 63 subjects was seen individually

for three one-hour sessiont. The experimental sessions

were scheduled exactly one week apart.

The procedure will be described according to the

different measures obtained for each subject and the

different experimental conditions. Tho following is the

order of presentation within the sessions and the average

time that each procedure required:

Feqosion Onr.

1. California Psychological Inventory 45 minutes
2. Value Rating Form 7 minntos

eiA-sion 'Pw (one week later)

1. IMPI Repression-SGennitization
Scale 20 minutes
2. reaction Tire Procedure 15 minutes
3. Feeling rating Form 7 minutes

"Session Three (one week after Sosnion Two)

1. Tachistoscopic Presentation 30 minutes
2. Value-Feeling Rating Procedure 15 minutes

Four different t'es of measures were obtained for each

subject. Each of these measures and the conditions under

which they were obtained will be separately described.

1. A measure of perceptual defense anc Rnnritizn-

tion was obtained for ch subject. A modification of a

perceptual defense procednrn first used by Chodorkoff (1954)

was employed.

The first part of this procedure involved a word

association reaction time measure. A randomized 74-word list

of emotional and neutral words was presented vorally by the

experimenter to each subject (see p. 25 for a description

of the formation of this word list). Doth the experimenter's

presentation of the word and the subject's word associa-

tion were recorded on tape. The tape recording allowed

the words to bo presented without stopping to record the

reaction times. Each subject was instructed ac follows:

I am now going to read a list of 74 words.
The words will be ten seconds apart and
after each word I would like you to say
the first word that comes to Wind. Please
speak directly into the microphone and in
your normal volume of voice. If you do
not think of a word in ten seconds I will
say the nex-t word. If you do not know
the waning o a word, just say so and we
will go on to the next one. Do you have
any questions:

A voico key and an electric timer were later used in con-

junction with the tape recordings to obtain association

reaction times for each subject to each word. On the

basis of these reaction times two groups of ten words

were selected for each subject to be .resented as the

stinfli for the perceptual defense procedure. One group

consisted of the ten emotional words for which the

individual subject had the longest reaction times. The

other group consisted of ten neutral words for which the

subject had neither long nor short reaction times. Thus

each emotional word selected for use in the perceptual

procedure had not only been unanimously judged to be "emo-

tional" but had produced a delayed reaction in the word

aelociation task. In this way words were selected which

represent relevant threatening and neutral stimili for

each subject.

The use of word association reaction timr as an

indicator of areas of conflict or emotionality ws first

employed by Jung (1918) and later ly Carlson (1054).

Three practice words were presented tachistoncop-

ically to each subject and these wore followed by the 20

individually selected words presented in a random order.

Each %word was presented in the tachistoscope beginninYg at

the .01 cocond exposure lovel, and the exrocure tiv was

increased consecutively 1by .01 second until the subject

was able to give tu consouotive, correct reports of the

stimulus word. T exposure time at which the subject

correctly rorortod the word for the second tine was used

as the recognition score for that word.

Each subjr)t was instructed as follows:

I goig to flash a series of 23 wores
on the screen before you. reach word will
be flashed a nurder of times in succoarcion
and each time at a slightly sloe.r speed.
An coon as you have any idea as to what
the word night be I would like you to guess.
If it looks like th sam word e next
time, then say that word again. .hen you
have correctly identified the word twice
in a row, I will let you know that you arc
correct and we will go on to the next
word. Do you have any questions at this
time? There will be three practice worCs.

Tho perceptual defense-sensitization score for each subject

was defined as the difference between the total trials

to recognition for neutral words and the total trials

to recognition for aortional words. Thus, a larger number

of trials for emotional words would indicate perceptual

defense (repression) and a larger number of trials for

neutral words would indicate perceptual sensitization.

On the basis of their ranked performance on the

perceptual task the 63 subjects were divided into equal

griops of 21 repressers (1R), 21 neutrals (N), and 21

sensitizers (S).

2. The Pevised IfPI P-S Scale wan administered

to each subject in order to obtain a current MPI measure

of repressiorn-sensitization. On the basin of their F-S

scores the subjects ware again divided into groups of 21

repressers (R'), 21 neutrals (N'), and 21 sensitizers


3. The California Psychological Inventory (CPI)

was administered. The raw scores for each subject on the

10 CPI scales were converted to standard scores. A mean

standard score was obtained for each subject which repre-

sented his general level of adjustment. The mean standard

scores were then usec1 to rank the subjects from highest

to lowest level of general adjustment.

4. A value-f*eling incongruency proccTd:re adapted

from McPeynolds (1950) was adminintcrecl to each subject

under two different expe-rimrntal conditions. The two con-

ditions differed in the degree to whichh the subjects w.re

allowed to know that (1) value-feling inconqru-ncies were

being measured andn (2) that the total nubcer and degree of

his inconcruemncies is thought to be r-lated to level of

psychological adjustment. In condition (1) the rations

were spatially and t-rnporally distant and the instructions

were neutral. The subjects were given an evaluationss

Form" in which they were aszced to rate 48 items on a five-

point scale from "Good" to "Dafd." One wtek later a "Survey

of Likes and Dislikes" was administered in which they

were acked to rate 50 itons on a five-point scale from "Like"

to "Dislike." Thirty-five items were n to the two

form 3Ixt the orderin- of the fems was different and dif-

ferent buffer items were used in each form.

In condition (2) the ratings were spatially nnd

temporarily proximate and the instructions were cuch as

to make the crucial dimensions clear and involving to the

subjects. The subjects were asked to rate niriltaneously

each of the 35 statements on the value. (Good-Dad) and

feeling (Like-Disliko) diwnsions. rach statement was

typed on two neparato cards and the subject placed the

cards in the row and column of a value-foeling box (see

Appendix B) which represented his value and feeling

ratings. In condition (2) the subjects were instructed

as follows:

This is a ratirn tesc something like the
ones you did before but with vcmr different
itmns and a different procedure. f acn
item is typed on two successive cards like
this practice item (Going to the dentist).
I would like you to rate each item first on
the value dimension from good to bad and
then on the feeling dimension from like to
dislike. Would you please do the practice
item first and for this one just aput the
cards flat on top of the rating slots that
you select rather than into the slots.
(Subject selects ratings for the practice
item.) The degree of conflict between your
values and feelinrc; with regard to thin
item can roughly be measured by the vertical
distance between your two ratings. The
rating box has been set up so that values
and feelings that go together without con-
flict are on the sae level. The practice
item was selected because it is one a1:out
which most people have some conflict. Do
you have any questions so far? Some past
psychological research in which subjects have
been asked to rate a series of items and were
abl to compare their ratings as they did so
has indicated that the degree of conflict
between an individual's values and feelings
is related to his psychological adjustrwnt.
I have sooe questions about the wmwaures of
adjustment used in this past research but
the general finding I believe makes sense.
In other words, if you wrer to rate each item

in a conflicting way you would probably
experience much of your life as either
wanting to do the things that you thought
were had or disliking the tings thnt you
thought were good. And you -ould probably
Ib poorly adjusted as a result.

You do not need to spend a long time
deciding on your ratings as long as you
are able to compare your ratings as you
go along. I ant you lo be able to ron
where you have conflicts and here you
don't. Do you have any questionsn' Ycu:
may begin.

An incongruency core wa calculated for each

subject under condition (1) and again under condition (2)

by totaling the incongruency scores thnt he received for

each staternt. (See Appendix D for the value-feeling

table whichh illustrates the way in thich incongruency

scores were calculated.)

T:xporimontal ilvpotheses

The following are operational statements of the

central experimntal hypotheses. Each hypothesis will be

accepted if the null hypothesis can be rejected at the

.05 level of confidence.

1. "The correlationn between the perceptual measure

of represeion-sensitization (Groiup R, U1, and S) and the

1MPZ measure of reprcssion-censitization (Croups R', tV',

and 9') will not be of sufficient magcnitudce to justify

the use of the NAMPI R-L Scale as an operational definition

of repression-sensitiEation.

2. Groupms R, N, and S will be related to the CPI

measure of ndjuntrm!nt in a cu2rvilinear manner. The .mesan

CPI standard score for Group 1T will fall significantly

above the mran standard scores of both Group R and Group S.

3. Groups F', U.', and S' will be related to the

CPI measure of adjustment in a linear manner. The mean

CPI standard scores for Group R' will fall significantly

above tbo mean CPI standard scores of Group N'. The mean

CPI standard Ecor c for Group N' will fall significantly

above the mean CPI standard scores of Group S'.

4. Value-feeling incor.ci-uency score for Group

R will decrease from condition (7) to condition (2).

Value-feeling incongrruency scores for group S will decrease

to a significantly loss degree than Group H.



The results pertaining to the perceptual measure

of repression-sensitization and its relation to adjustment

are the most central to this research and will be pre-

sented first.

A brief review of the way in which subjects were

scored on the perceptual variable seems worthwhile at

this point. The total number of trials to recognition

for each subject on the ton neutral words was subtracted

from the total number of trials to recognition on the ten

emotional words. Thus a high positive score is indicative

of extreme repression and a high negative score is indica-

tive of extreme sensitization.

A frequency distribution of the tachistoscopic

repression-sensitization scores (see Fig. 1) indicates a

significantly larger number of repressers. Of the 63 sub-

jects, 44 had higher recognition thresholds for the emo-

tional words than for the neutral words (Signs Test, a =

3.17, p < .001). This significantly greater proportion






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of perceptual repressers is in agreement with previous

research in this area (Eriksen, 1952 Cliodorkoff, 1954).

The tachistoscopic scores of male and female sub-

jects were compared as a possible indirect check of the

effect of suppression. If a social taboo associated with

some of the emotional words was a significant variable,

it would be predicted that female subjects would hold

back or suppress their responses with a male exIperirenter

to a greater extent than male subjects. A Mann-Whitney

U test of the difference between the tachistoscopic ranks

of the female subjects (N 36) and the male subjects

(H 27) indicates that there is no significant difference

between the two groups in tachistoscopic performance

(U 435, a w .07). This finding provides additional sup-

port for the validity of this experimental procedure as

a measure of repression-sensitisation.

On the basis of their tachistoscopic scores the

subjects were divided into equal groups of 21 repressers

(R), 21 neutrals (H), and 21 sensitizers (S). The range

of tachistoscopic scores for repressers was 26 to 11, for

neutrals 9 to 2, and for sensitisers 1 to -26.

Mann Whitney U tests of the differences between

the ranks of adjustment scores for the three perceptual

groups were carried out. Three statistical comparisons

were made: R with S, R with N, and N with S. The results

of these analyses have been sumlmrised in Table 1.



Pepressor and Represser and Neutral and
Sensitiser Neutral Sensitimer
Groups Groups Groups

R1 458.5 437 430

R2 444.5 466 473

U 214 206 199

x .02 .04 .05

aN of each group 21.

Contrary to the hypothesimed curvilinear relation-

ship, no significant relationship wee found between the

perceptual measure of repression-sensititation and adjust-

ment as measured by the CPI.

This lack of relationship and the possible factors

leading to it will be discusIsd later in this paper but

one poet hoc attempt to discover a possibly confounding

variable will be presented at this point. In examining the

total trials to recognition for emotional and neutral words

(nee Appendix C) it is clear that there is a large amount

of between subject variability in general recognition level.

Because general recognition level for each subject is

largely determined by visual acuity the resulting scores

do not approximate a normal distribution. Furthermore it

may not make sense to say that two subjects who have the

same emotional-neutral difference score are repressing to

the sae degree if the scores for one subject are 210-205

and for the other subject are 40-35. For this reason an

additional analysis and division of the subjects was car-

ried out on the basis of a ratio score. A ratio of total

emotional trials to total neutral trials was used to form a

distribution of subjects from extreme repression to ex-

treme sensitization. This has the effect of ranking the

subjects according to the proportion and direction of

their difference score relative to their total score. T

tachistoscopic ratio scores have been presented in Appen-

dix C.

When groups of repressers, neutrals, and sensitiz-

ers were formed on the basis of the ratio scores there was

no significant relationship to CPI adjustment scores. A

Mann-Whitney U test indicated that there were no signifi-

cant differences in the group comparrisen of R with S

(U 220, z = .01). R with i? (U7 201, z .49) or N

with S (U = 195, a .64).

The mean CPI standard scores for the tachisto-

scopic groups R, N, and 5 formed on the betis of ratic

scores have been plotted in Fig. 2. The three defensive

groups have each been divided into three *sutro'~s s, ,ach

of thich contains sewvn subjects. It can be observed

that there is no consistent trend within the subgroupl

and also that the most extreme defensive groups show a

slight insignificant trend in the opposite of the direc-

tion that has been predicted.

On the basis of the MMP mearsnre of rprpression-

sensitization the asrbjects were again divided into equal

groups of 21 repreosersa (R'), 21 neutrals (M'), and 21

snesitimers (8'). The raIge of MMPX R-S scores for

repressers wa 4 to 20, for neutrals wem 21 to 32, and

for sentitimers was 33 to 01.

Mann-Whitney U tests of the differences between

the ranks of adjustment meorea for the three MMPI groups

were carried out. Three statistical comparilsns were

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nade R' with S', R' with N', and N' with *. The re-

rults of these analyses have been sumimrized in Table 2.



P.epresser and Represser and Neutral and
Sensitizer Neutral Sonsitiser
Groups Groups Groups

I 640 560 594

R2 263 343 309

U 32 112 78

z 4.74b 2.73c 3.59b

aN of each group 21.

bp < .001.

Cp < .05.

In accordance with the hypotheised linear rela-

tionship R' subjects were found to be significantly better

adjusted on the CPI than either N' or S' subjects, and N'

subjects were found to be significantly better adjusted

than S' subjects.

One of the central hypotheses involved in this

research study was that the correlation between the MMPI

measure of repression-sensitization and the perceptual

measure would not be of a sufficient magnitude to justify

the use of the MMPI P.-S Scale as an operational definition

of repression-sensitization. A Spearman rank correlation

of the perceptual and MMPI measures was calculated (r. r

-.03, t = .02). This low negative correlation ic not

significantly different from chance.

This finding forces one to question seriously the

use of the MMPI R-S Scale as an operational definition of

perceptual repression-sensitisation.

The mean CPI standard scores for the tachistoscopic

groups and the MMPI groups have been plotted in Fig. 3.

The relationship of each group to the population mean of

50 and the sample mean (dotted line) of 52.25 can be seen.

As previously presented in Table 1, the differences between

the tachistoecopic groups are not significant and the M4MPI

group are significantly related to adjustment in a linear

manner. The significant clustering of poorly adjusted rub-

jects in the MMPI S' group is one of the most striking find-

ings, and this will be explored later in the paper.

The second part of the research involved the sub-







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jects' performance on a Value-Feeling Incongruency Test

that was given under two conditions. In condition (1)

the instructions were neutral and the fact that the sub-

jects were rating the same item on two dimensions was

disguised. Condition (2) represented an undisguised,

relatively threatening situation in Ahich the subjects

were aware that they were in effect rating themselves on

their own psychological adjustment.

It was hypothesized that all groups would show a

decrease in total incongruency scores from condition (1)

to condition (2) and that the represser groups would show

a significantly greater shift. There were two subjects

who did not change their incongruency scores from condi-

tion (1) to condition (2). Of the remaining subjects

(N m 61) 43 decreased their total incongruency score in

condition (2) (Sign Test, z = 3.08, p < .01).

Value-feeling incongruency difference scores (con-

dition [1) condition [21) were calculated for each sub-

ject. The mean value-feeling incongruency scores for the

tachistoscopic and MXPI groups have been plotted in Fig. 4.

Mann-Whitney U tests of the difference between the

ranks of value-feeling incongruency difference s s of

the represser and sensitixer groups were carried out. Two

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statistical comparisons were made: R with S and R' with

6'. The results of these analyses are summarized in

Table 3.



Groups Groups
R and S R' and S'

R1 415.5 395.5

R2 487.5 507.5

U 1C4.5 164.5

a .91 1.41

%n of each group 21.

Although the differences between the represser groups and

the sensitiaer groups are in the predicted direction for

both sets of group, these differences are not significant.

Almost a third of the subjects received negative scores by

increasing their incongruency score in condition (2) and the

range of scores is quite large (-32 to 26).

Some of the preceding results may be more easily

understood if we take a closer look at the distribution of

adjustment scores. A frequency distribution of the CPI

standard scores has been plotted (see Fig. 5). This

sample (N = 63) can be described as being compared of a

large proportion of subjects who are abohee average in ad-

justment and a small number of subjects wo are poorly ad-

justed. One of the problems involved in attempting to

relate style of defensive behavior to adjustment with

college subjects is that the range of adjustment is con-

siderably lee than is found in the general population.

The above-average adjustment level of this particular

sample may have increased this problem.


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The results will be discussed first in relation

to the specific hypotheses involved in the present study,

and then the future research suggested by these results

will be *explored.

H.vothjLf I The first hypothesis was confirmed

by the nonsignificant correlation found between the MNPT

aneeure of represiton-sensitiaation and the perceptual

measure. As a result of this finding, the validity of

the MMPI FR- Scale must seriously be questioned.

Byrne (1961) gives as support for the validity of

the MMPI R-S Scale the fact that eom of the MMPI scales

used to make up the scale have been found to be correlated

with "sensitizing and repressive behaviors." In the

rajerity of these studies hat was described as mensitis-

ing mad repressing behavior could only loosely be defined

as such, and frequently the correlation with individual

scales ws not of a great aMgnitude.

The comparison of the perceptual measure with the

R-S Scale can be viewed as a test of the validity of the

R-S Scale. The concepts of repression and sensitisation

as employed in recent research are said by Byrne (1961)

and others to have their experimental origin in the per-

ceptual defense studies of the forties and fifties. If

we are willing to accept the perceptual measure as a

valid one, the data then indicate that the M MPI R-S Scale

has little or no validity. Thus, although the R-S Scale

may be a measure of repression-sensitization in some

sense, it cannot validly be used as an operational defini-

tion of nRrcsptgaJL repression-sensitisation.

It is interesting to compare the insignificant low

correlation obtained in this study with a perhaps related

finding that wee presented but then ignored b ,CGordon

(1957). Gordon was one of the first to use the MMPI to

form group of repressers and sensitizers. He used an

MMPI anxiety-defensiveness measure (roughly the relation

of K and L scale scores to MAS scores) to form repression

and sensitization groups. Gordon mentions in the descrip-

tion of his procedure that he obtained an additional mea-

cur+ of repression-sernitisation based upon differential

recall of threatening and nonthreatening material. He

reported: "We find little relationship between the anxiety-

defensiveness ratio and differential recall (r = -.12, p

> .10)."

The present study forces one to question whether

the 1MPI R-S Scale is an effective research instrument.

The widespread use of this apparently confounded and un-

clearly defined scale seems unlikely to lead to any sig-

nificant knowledge abont defensive behavior and its rela-

tionhaip to psychological adjustment.

The results pertaining to the third hypothesis

will new be presented because of their relationship to

Hypothesis I.

HnvYotlesis tjs Am we hypothesized, the MhPI

R-S Scale wse found to be related to adjustment as measured

by the CPI in a linear manner. Became of the highly

questionable validity of the R-S Scale it is difficult to

do more than speculate on the possible meaning of this


One factor that apparently contributes to this

result is the likely contamination Ibtween the independent

and dependent variables. A large number of identical

item. appear on both the M4PI and the CPI. Gough (1957)

states that approximately 200 CPI item appeared originally

in the MMPI. Byrne wnuld have been on nsonder experimental

ground had he taken the precaution to measure his indepen-

dent and dependent variables with different sets of data.

Further confounding of the independent and depen-

dent variables is Saq7gested when one exa-ines Eyrne's

operational definitions of repression and sensitization.

The R-S Scala is operationally defined as te sum of the

D + Pt + Welsh Anxiety scores subtracted from the total of

the I + K + Hfy einial scores. This combination of scales

appears almsat by definition to be measuring adjustment to

some degree. It is neither surprising nor illuminating to

find that a sensitizer (a compulsive, depressed, anxious

individual) appears less well adjusted on a personality

inventory than an individual with high scores on L, X, and

IIy denial.

.pothe.ts I : The fourth hypothesis was concerned

with the differential performance of represser and sensitiser

groups on the value-feeling incongruency test. Although

both the perceptual represser group (R) and the MPI re-

presser group (R') reduced their value-feeling incongruen-

cies in the more threatening condition to a greater degree

than the sansitiser groups, this difference was not large

enough to achieve statistical significance.

It should be pointed out that the difference be-

tween the JMPE R' and S group did cloeely approach sig-

nificance (p. < .08). This result suggests that the IMPI

R-S Scale is measuring defensive style to som degree.

The less clear searation of the perceptual R and

S groups mast be explored. If we were to accept the

value-feeling incongruency scores as a criterion for valid-

ity, we might conclude that the MMPI R-S Scale was the

smorevelid of the two measures. The value-feeling incongr -

ency score, however, do not appear to be a reasoenble

standard upon which to gauge the validity of other measures

of defensive behavior. Mcreynolde (1958) found that sub-

jects sometimes confused the two rating dimensions and, for

example, rated ice cream as good because they liked it and

not because they valued it. Another problem with this

measure is that it depends to some extent upon a deception

of the subjects. Such personality characteristics as

gullibility vs. suspiciousnesr and conformity vs. rebel-

liousness likely affect responses to sme extent. For

these reasons it seem to make little scene to view these

data as a test of comparative validity.

The fact that both represser groups when coiqared

with sensitimer groups showed a greater, although not

statistically significant, shift toward decreased i r-

ency gives some support for the view thnt style of defense

will affect performance on a self-rating adjustment imbn-

tory. This finding if supported by future research sug-

gests that the level of awareness at which adjustment is

measured is of crucial importance when groups differing in

style of defensive behavior are baing studied.

These results also provide moderate bet incon-

clusive support for Stein's findings with regard o de fen-

sive behavior in neutral and threatening conditions.

Stein (1953) measured perceptual defense and sensitization

(as defined by recognition thresholds for aggressive and

nonaggressive pictures) under neutral and involved presen-

tations. Hle concluded that there was "an accentuation of

the preferred defense under the involved condition."

Frpthesis_ I-: The discussion of the second

hypothesis has been held until this point because of its

importance and complexity. It wae hypothesized that the

perceptual amesure of repression-sensitization would be

related to adjustment, as measured by the CPI, in a curvi-

linear manner. The finding of no significant relation-

ship between these two variables led to the rejection of

the hypothesis. The following discussion will explore


som of the possible interpretations of this result and

the factors that may have contributed to it.

One interpretation of this finding would be that

defensive style is unrelated to psychological adjustment.

Unless this fining was replicated with different memaures

of defensive lbhavior, different measures of psychological

adjustment, and across different sample populations, such

a sweeping conclusion would he entirely unjustified.

The present finding does suggest, however, that

within a relatively well-adjusted and homogeneous student

population, defensive style as meamured by recognition

thresholds for tachistoacopically presented emotional and

neutral words has no relationship to adjustment as

measured by a personality inventory.

Our wet widely accepted theories of personality

and adjustment (e.g., Freudian psychoanalytic and Rogerian

awareness and acceptance) suqge.t that a consistent and

extreme use of either repressive or sensitizing defenses

should lead to the denial to awweness of a wide range of

experiences and thus to p~or psychological adjustment.

When a subject's perfermane on a tachisteecopic

task is used am a measure of defensive behavior, we are

makiTn the aesw~ option that individuals are consistent in

their style of psychological defense. The following

studies support the assumption that defensive style can

be measured by subjects' performance on a perceptual

task, Eriksen (1951) used a tachistoscopic presentation

of aggressive and nonaggressive scenes to fora groups of

repressers and sensitisers and then administered the

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). He found that subjects

who sensitized in the perceptual task expressed more

open aggression on t TAT, while repressive subjects

evidenced blocking and unela'orated stories. In a more

recent study by Carpenter (1956) a sentence completion

test was used to form groups of sensitisera and repres-

sars for different content areas. IHe found that subjects

classified as sensitizers on certain content areas on

the sentence completion test more rapidly perceived words

associated with these content areas than did the repres-

sive subjects.

The above results support the validity of the

perceptual performance as a rmneure of style of defensive


The measurement of the dependent variable, level

of psychological adjustment, appears to be open to greater

question. Any operational definition of psychological


adjustment is likely to be a somwwhat arbitrary one.

Particular problema are involved when ascertaining the ad-

justment of groups differing in style of defensive behav-

ior. The possibility that the results in the present

study were sowmchat distorted by the differing defensive

behavior of the subjects ust be considered. It seemr

unlikely, however, that this distortion in itself would

lead to the lack of relationship that was obeerved.

Another factor that might have served to disguise

a general relationship between defensive style and adjust.-

ment is the fact that the saple studied in the present

experiment was a relatively hesageneoAs and well adjusted

one. One hypothesis which could be explored in future

research is that only in poorly adjusted groups do styles

of defensive behavior become rigid and inflexible. This

view is given tentative support by a study carried ont by

Ullmenn (1962). Ullmann formed group of facilitator

and inhibitors (a dimension similar to repression-sensitisa-

tion) by means of judges' ratings of case history material.

He used these group to develop an empirically derived

iPI Facilitation-Inhibition Scale. This seale was then

administered to a student population and a hospital

patient population. He found a significantly leoer

variance for th. Facilitation-Irnhibition Gcale en the

student population as compared with the hospital popula-


The complete lack of relationship found in the

present study suggests to this author, however, that style

of defensive behavior in itself may not be significantly

related to adjustment. It sees likely that such factors

as the flexibility and apppropriateness of defensive be-

havior rather than style, par me, determine the degree to

which defensive behavior is adaptive for the individual.

One might hypothesize that individuals on either extreme

of a repression-sensitization continuum would be rigid in

the use of defensive behavior.

A study carried out by Apler (1946) bears on this

question. Apler used an estimate of ego strength arrived

at from clinical judgments and found that individuals

characterized as having "strong egos" favored incomplete

tasks in recall under task oriented conditions and completed

tasks in their recall under conditions of threat to self-

esteem. Individuals characterized as having "weak egos"

showed a reversal of this trend. If this etudy is viewed

in term of style of defense, it suggests the importance

of flexibility and appropriateness of defensive behavior.

Other studies have also indicated that subjects are able

to shift their mode of defense relative to the nature of

the threatening stiLulus (Dulany, 19577 Abrams, 1962).

The relationship tf style, flexibility, and ap-

propriateness of defensive behavior will have to be

studied over groups representative of different levels

of adjustment before the relatiomehip of repression-

sensitization to adjustment can be further clarified.

Turning now to the preeent condition of research

in this area, it seems clear that the widely used MMPI

R-S Scale is a far too ambicuous and confounded measure

of defense to be of umch help in clarifying these ques-


What is most needed is research which carefully

separates the crucial varieties related to defensive be-

havior so that their interaction can be studied.



The present study was co with the relation-

ship of repression-sensitition to psychological adjust-


The concepts of repression and sensitization Which

have been widely employed in recent research have their

experimental origins in the perceptual defense studies

of the forties and fifties. In research deploying dif-

ferential recognition t3iresholds for emotionally toned vs.

neutral stimuli the term "represser" and "sensitizer"

have been used to describe the extremes of this dimension.

Individuals in the former category are defined as those

having a relatively elevated threshold for emotionally

toned material and in the latter as those having a rela-

tively lower threshold for such material.

During the last five years ndh of the research

on methods of defensive behavior has involved the Minnesota

Multiphasic Personality Inventory (PMPI). Research

emlployin the 4PI Repression-gensitisation (R-S) Scale

has indicated that represoion-semeitization is related

to adjustment in a linear manner. Repressers have been

found to be significantly better adjusted than neutrals,

and neutrals significantly better adjusted then sensitiz-

ers. Despite the fact that the MJPI R-5 Scale is thought

to be an operational measure pf perceptual repression-

senaitisation, there is only weak and conflicting evidence

with regard to the validity of the scale.

The present experiment represented an attempt to

separate wore clearly two variables that have been

severely confounded in recent personality research: style

of defensive behavior and level of psychological adjust-

ment. The purpose of the experiment was to re-esamine the

relationship between defensive style and adjustment by

defining defensive behavior in such a way as to avoid the

circularities and confounded variables involved in the

recent research in this area.

The present investigation also focused on the

problems involved in the use of a personality inventory

to measure the adjustment ef groups differing in style of

defensive behavior. The relationship between style of

defensive behavior and the degree of personal threat and

subject awareness involved in measure; of psychological

adjustment was examined as an indirect way of determining

the effect of defensive behavior p performance on a

personality inventory. The condition representing in-

creased awareness of personal threat was constructed to

be similar to the degree and nature of threat experienced

by a subject taking a personality inventory.

The study was designed to test the following


1. The relationship between a controlled percep-

tial measure of repression-sensitization and the MMPE

R-S Scale is not of a sufficient magnitude to justify the

use of the R-S Scale as an operational definition of per-

ceptual repression-sensitization.

2. Perceptual repression-sensitization is re-

lated to adjustment in a curvilinear runner.

3. Repression-sensitization as measured by the

MPI R--S Scale is related to adjustment in a linear manner.

4. An individual's preferred mode of defense will

be accentuated under conditions of increased awareness of

personal threat.

The subjects were 63 male and female University of

Florida undergraduates. Equal groups of 21 repressers,

21 ieutrals, and 21 sensitisers were formed on the bass

of differential recognition threshold for tachistoecop-

ically presented neutral and emotionally toned words.

The PPI R-5 Scale we. administered to each subject, and

the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) wea employed

as a measure of psychological adjustment. A Value-Feeling

Incongruency Test was given under conditions of differing

awareness and personal threat.

In accordance with the first hypothesis, the M1PI

R-S Scale was not found to be significantly correlated

with the perceptual measure of repression-sensiti-ation.

The importance of this finding relative to the widespread

use of this scale was emphasized.

Repression-sensitisation as defined by the MMPI

R-B Scale was found, as hypothesized, to be related to

the CPI measure of adjustment in a linear manner. In

view of the apparent lack of validity of this scale these

results were discussed primarily in terms of a comf nding

of level of adjustment and defense.

Although it wa* found that both the perceptual

and M)PI represser groups did employ repression to a

greater degree than the senaitisera in the value-feeling

incongruency mwasurement under stressful conditions, this

difference was M t large enough to achieve statistical

significance. Problems relating to the neaurenment of

value-feeling incongruencies were explored along with the

possibility of a confounding resulting from the dependence

of this measure upon a deception of the subjects. These

findings give only tentative support for th view that

style of defense will significantly affect performance on

a self-rating adjustment inventory.

Finally, no significant relationship was found in

the present study between repression-sensitization a

measured by differential recognition thresholds for neutral

and emotionally toned words and psychological adjustment

as measured by the CPI. This finding was discussed in

relation to th relatively homogeneous and well-adjusted

nature of te present sample. The need to examine this

relationship in groups having more extreme differences in

level of adjustment was streaked. The possibility of

somewhat misleading results steaming from the use of a

personality inventory as the measure of adjustment was

also mentioned.

It was concluded that the relationship of such

variables as the style, flexibility, and appropriateness

of defensive behavior will have to be studied over groups

representative of different levels of adjustment before

the relationship of repreasion-eensitisation to psycholog-

ical adjustment can be further clarified.

The continued use of the MIPI R-S Scale clearly

will not meet the need for a careful separation and exnm-

ination of the crucial variables related to defensive

behavior and its relationship to adjustment.




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__ __
_ I ___


Abrams, S. A. A refutation of Xriksen's sesitisation
defense hypotheses. J, PrFl. TRE-., 1962, 259-65.

Altrocchi, J., Parasos, 0. A., and Dickeff, Hilda. Changes
in self-ideal discrepancy in repressers and
sensitisers. J. Abnmrx. Soc, Pasybol., 1960, 61,

Apler, Thelma G. Memory of completed and incom pleted
tasks ae a function of personality an analysis
of group data. j, Xbers a-Soc. Psvcfol., 1946,
41, 403-21.

Block, J., and Thornm, H. Is satisfaction with self a
meaisre of adjustment? J. AbSarPEU. gir Psychol.,
1955, 51,, 254-59.

Bruner, J. S. On perceptual readiness. Pychol. Rev.,
1957, 64, 123-52.

Byrne, D. The Represnicn-Sensitisation S elet Rationale,
reliability, and validity. J. Pri., 1961, 29,

Byrne, D. Childrearing anteoedents of repression-
sensitization. Child Deve1am., 1964, 35, 1033-39.

Byrne, D., Darry, J., and Nelson, D. Relation of the
revised Repression-Sensitinution Scale to measures
of self-description. PuYrtl.2 Rep., 1963, 13,

Byrae, D., Goliqhtly, D., and Sheffield, J. The R-8 Scale
as a memare of adjustment: Relationship with the
CPI J CgMult. -PeSvtQl., in press.

Carlson, V. R. Individual differences in the recall of
word-association-test words. J. Per., 1954,
23, 77-87.

Carpenter, B., Wiener, Ma., and Carpenter, Janethb T.
Predictability of perceptual defense behavior.
J. Abnorm. Soc. Psycho!., 1956, 52, 380-83.

Chodorkoff, B. ?elf-perception, perceptual defense, and
adjustment. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol., 1954, 49,

Christie, J. Personality structure. In P. Farnsworth,
Olga McNemar and Q. ?PHMear (Ed,.), Annual Review
of Psvdhyrtltq. Vol. 14. Palo Alto, Calif.:
Annual Reviews, Inc., 1963.

Cronbach, L. J. In 0. K. Buros (Ed.), Fifth mental
Smur=am2Z 2earboIok. highland Park, N. J.:
Gryphon Press, 1959, pp. 37-39.

Davison, L. A. Adaptation to a threatening stimulus.
Ph.D. dissertation, University of California,

Dulany, D. E., Jr. Avoidance learning of perceptual de-
fense and vigilance. J, Abaxri. Sac. Peych l.,
1957, 55, 333-38.

Erikeen, C. W. Some implications for TAT interpretation
arising from need and perception experinmnts.
J. Pars., 1951, 19, 282-88.

Erikoen, C. W. Defense against ego-threat in mermry and
perception. J. Aba~og Soc. Psychol., 1952, 47,

Eriknsn, C. W. The cae for perceptual defense. Pgvchol.
Rvas, 1954, 61, 175-82.

frikeen, C. W., and Lasarusa, R. S. Perceptual defensee and
projective tests. J_ Abnorm! Soc. Psvchol., 1952,
47, 302-6.

Priedmrw, I. Phenomenal, ideal and projected conception
of self. J.Al rW Soc. PsyV3col., 1955, 51,

Gordon, J. Interpersonal predictions of repressors and
sensitiaers. Ja Peor., 1957, 25, 686-98.

Gough, H. G. Califorp a sycvholoqical inventory mnuAl.
Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1957.

Joy, V. L. Repression-sensitisation and interpersonal
behavior. Paper read at Amer. Psychol. Assoc.,
Philadelphia, August, 1963.

Jung, C. G. Studies in word-aaiiciation. London: William
!Iesiinernn, 1918.

Lauarus, P. S., Eriksn, C. W., and Fonda, C. P. Personal-
ity dynamics and auditory perceptual recognition.
J. PerA., 1951, 19, 471-32.

McGinnies, E. Emotionality and perceptual defense.
.PspScl. .ev., 1949, 56, 244-51.

McReynolds, P. A restricted conceptualization of human
anxiety and motivation. Psythol. RP ., 1956, 2,

McReynolds, P. Anxiety as related to incongruencies
between values and feelings. PgtSchl~ j ec., 1958,
8, 57-66.

Poetman, L., Bruner, J. S., and NcGinnies, E. Perceptual
values as selective factors in perception.
J. j hnm, Sec. PsvcLal., 1948, 43, 142-54.

foogers, C. R., and Dymond, Rosalind F. (Eds.). Pfycho-
tUerawy and psrganality flappg Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1954.

Stein, N;, B. Perceptual defense and perceptual sensitiza-
tion under neutral and involvd conditions.
J, Per&.., 1953, 21, 467-78.


Thorndike, E. L., and I. Lorge. teacher's word topk
of 30,000 wordo. Mew York: Rureau of Publications,
Teachers College, Colurmbia University, 1944.

Ullmnn, L. P. An empirically derived 4MPI scale hich
measures facilitation-inhibition of recognition of
threatening stimuli. J, Clin. Paych:o., 1962,
18, 127-32.

Weier, M. Word freqaen:cy or motivation in rxrcopt:al
defense. J. Abnorn. Soc. Psychol., 1055, 51,


John William P.hle wea born in Torrinrjton, Connec-

ticut, on July 20, 1939. He was graKuated from George-

town Preparatory School. In 1957 he enrolled in Cornell

University where Ih received the B.A. degree, with a major

in philosophy, in June, 1961. In September of that year

he entered t*he University of Plorida and in December,

1962, received the M.A. degree with a major in psychology.

From September, 1964, until September, 1965, he was an

intern in clinical psychology at the Langley Porter Mero-

psychiatric Institute in San Francisco. Since that time

he has been engaged in fulfilling the requirements for the

dgree of Doctor of Philoeophy. He has also been employed

on a part-tism baiis as a staff psychologist at the

Alachua County Health Department since Septesmbr, 1965.

John William Peile is married to the former

Cecilia flobbie and they have a ree, Mark, two years of age.

This dissertation was prepared under the direction

of the chairman of the candidate's supervisory committee

and has been approved by all me:crn of that cow.ittee. It

was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and

Sciences and to tho Gradute Council, and was approved as

partial fulfillment of the reqaireww.ntn for the degree of

Doctor of Philoscrhy.

April 23, 1966

Dean, Coll'e o. Arts and Sciences

Dean, Graduate School

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