JOHN WILLIAM PEHLE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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.
TABLE OF CCOTfBTS
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. . .
II. A REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH LITERATURE ON
RBPRRSBIO-steZSTIn TIOW AND ITS
RELATION TO ADJUTNMT . . . .
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
III. PURPOSE OF TIE PrYSENT EXPEPIMErNT
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. . . . . . . . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . ...
. . . 29
. . . 36
. . . 38
. . . 53
a.aa a 64
. . * 71
.* . 72
.* . 73
* . .. 75
LIST OF TABLES
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
LIST OF FIGURES
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
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
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
C.L ?PTEr. II
A REVIEW OF TI! R1SEA.CI LITErATUfT,
ON rF PP.ECSION-SEtNfITZATION AND
ITS REYLATIO TO AIXJUXGTWNT
?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
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
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
PT'Pearch and _Theory .ucnatostinrc a Curvilinear
Relationship to Adi ,ntnent
evidence from rercnptual
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:
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
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-
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
PURIPOS OF TIIr PP:SGE T EXPERIfTirT
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
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.
CIL PTER IV
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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)
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
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
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
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
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:
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.)
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
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-
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
4O n 0
s-on *o n
I U <
H H H UH
s;, -n0 O cu u
0 00 %D *PN%
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.
MAMr-WRITMMY U TESTS OF DIFPRNPRCES AMWMG
TME RANKS OF ADJUTMBMTI SCOSMS POn Tri
THRRB PERCEPTUAT GROUPS (R, N, AND 8)a
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-
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
Lf 10 4 O*
0 m ..0 Q4
4- k k P4
-- U) fa -
I r 0
0* 0 0 0 0
o I -
( N 0 0 0
cc "t C ) :5
0 0 a4 CA
020 1 rQ 1 P
\) U) P Q
\; 03 0)fSo *
^^. *^ 0< ) )-
nade R' with S', R' with N', and N' with *. The re-
rults of these analyses have been sumimrized in Table 2.
MAMN-WITNWFY U TESTS OF DIFFrnRuCS AMOWM
THE RANKS OF ADJUSTMRMT SCORES FOR TH-
THREW JMPI GROUPSa
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
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-
pavpupqS Ido upW
-- I I
M 4 -)
U) O 4-) 0Q
0 r- 4:
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
U U2 .,
*4 C C T *
N EC k
*4 O a
S_ CF a
4 W 4
0 4-, 4-
'0 m 4
m 0 a
P. 4 04 1
Sa J W
040 0 M-
aea-anTA Ul r
eej-etSA vew "rl
N uD In m r)
aouaaajjTa Aouena6uooui BUTT
statistical comparisons were made: R with S and R' with
6'. The results of these analyses are summarized in
MIN-W~s IITY U TESTS OF DIFFERENCES AMOTG TIME rA!
OF VALUB-FELING DIFFRPESCE SCOnES FOR GROUPS
R AND S AND GROUPS hR AND S'a
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.
0 0 O
_, tm C
d ed 0
. *" 4 *H
f u 2
0 00 400
m C u
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
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
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
.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-
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-
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
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
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.
"Pg6 A U
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VALUE-FEELING RATING BOX EMPLOYED IN CONDITION (2)
HOW I EVALUATE
HOW I FEEL ABOUT
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N N N N M Nn dv mf ? cri M m en enm v*q weq qe qw levvs ul L n n n ie in V LO %o %D iD
WMAN STAMNARD SCOKPS FOR Tft PBBRCPTFTAL
Sa ix E & & SEE Sa Sc
R 56.3 55.5 53.0 56.8 00.0 46.5 51.4 52.1 43.6
N 54.3 56.2 54.9 58.7 60.3 43.1 46.9 40.9 43.3
S 53.0 57.2 56.3 61.0 60.8 49.0 49.0 46.0 42.5
22 a. A .12 fT l M RE. St sce
n' 58.5 59.6 60.4 62.6 63.0 53.3 54.5 49.5 49.9
N' 5.9 57.0 58.0 62.1 63.1 47.8 40.8 43.6 43.0
S' 47.1 52.3 45.9 51.9 54.9 38.0 43.2 45.9 30.5
APPENDIX D.-- ?1Ytanded
AND MRPI GROUPS N0 TE 18 CPI 8CALES
C, S0 L Km Ac A Is & P Pe
52.2 42.8 52.9 51.0 57.0 55.0 40.8 55.8 52.9
53.5 45.2 47.6 50.0 58.9 51.3 54.7 59.7 47.2
54.0 43.3 51.4 48.1 58.7 56.2 52.9 61.2 50.0
To 0 Cia Ac Ai JI & r Fe
58.8 49.7 49.1 55.0 62.9 61.3 57.3 61.8 60.9
55.2 44.3 50.6 52.0 59.9 55.8 54.8 56.9 48.3
48.6 37.1 52.1 41.4 51.8 45.6 44.3 56.9 55.0
_ I ___
Abrams, S. A. A refutation of Xriksen's sesitisation
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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,
Block, J., and Thornm, H. Is satisfaction with self a
meaisre of adjustment? J. AbSarPEU. gir Psychol.,
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Bruner, J. S. On perceptual readiness. Pychol. Rev.,
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Byrne, D. The Represnicn-Sensitisation S elet Rationale,
reliability, and validity. J. Pri., 1961, 29,
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Byrne, D., Darry, J., and Nelson, D. Relation of the
revised Repression-Sensitinution Scale to measures
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Byrae, D., Goliqhtly, D., and Sheffield, J. The R-8 Scale
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Carlson, V. R. Individual differences in the recall of
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Davison, L. A. Adaptation to a threatening stimulus.
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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