Ryan D. Jagim

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Past research has suggested the potency of imagery in mediating peripheral skin temperature changes (Maslach, Marshall & Zimbardo, 1972). Imagery has also been found to be a relevant variable in the research area of brain lateralization (Morgan, McDonald & McDonald, 1971). The present study drew these rather divergent lines of research together by utilizing imagery as the common factor. This study investigated the relationship between hemispheric laterality and autonomic laterality by concomitantly monitoring bilateral skin temperature and lateral hemispheric activation as measured by attentional bias (Kinsbourne, 1970). In addition, the present study provided a test of the potency of imaginal strategies in mediating skin temperature changes.

A 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design (imaginal strategies x trait anxiety x sex) was utilized. Imagery (i.e., relaxing versus stressful imagery suggestions) was a within-subject factor. Since trait anxiety (Tucker, Antes, Stenslie & Barnhardt, 1978) and sex differences (Tucker, 1976) have been noted as relevant variables in this area of research, they were included as between-group factors.

In analyzing mean right and left skin temperature levels, no significant lateral differences were obtained. Therefore, the relationship between autonomic and hemispheric laterality could not be assessed. In analyzing the attentional bias responses, a greater right attentional bias (i.e., greater left hemisphere activation) was demonstrated across both imagery conditions; these results were opposite those expected. However, subjective ratings of vividness of imagery were found to be predictive of attentional bias with high vividness of imagery associated with left attentional bias. This finding adds empirical support to the relationship between imagery and right hemisphere activation.

Imagery was not found to be effective in producing skin temperature increases and/or decreases. However, a significant sex difference was noted with males demonstrating vasodilation and females demonstrating vasoconstriction.

The results of the study are discussed in terms of emotions and hemispheric specialization.