The Role of the Orienting Response in the Anticipation of Information: A Skin Conductance Response Study

John A. Spinks, Geoffrey H. Blowers, Tan Lei Shek

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Theoretical positions concerning the role of the orienting response (OR) in information‐processing and attention have viewed the OR either as indexing an active increase in information‐processing efficiency, or as passively reflecting the results of information processing. This paper reports a skin conductance response (SCR) study of a two‐stimulus anticipation experiment, where a warning stimulus (WS) informed subjects of the nature of an impending imperative stimulus (IS). The subjects' task was to identify as much of the IS as possible. Both the WS and the IS varied in information content and stimulus duration. SCR magnitude in the WS‐IS interval varied according to the anticipated information processing requirements and was more sensitive to IS variation than WS variation. It is concluded that these responses index an anticipatory, activating process closely related to that suggested of the OR by Sokolov (1966), and consonant with the functional characteristics of the autonomic nervous system. Registration of information appears to be neither a necessary determinant of OR magnitude, nor a parsimoniously useful part of OR theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-394
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Activation
  • Anticipation
  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Information processing
  • Orienting response
  • Skin conductance response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)

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