Date of Award

12-17-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S.

Degree Program

Psychology

Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Shirtcliff, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Marsee, Monica

Third Advisor

Martel, Michelle

Abstract

We attempted to identify the psychobiological mechanisms that mediate the process by which the sensation seeking trait culminates in behavior. We used the Sensation Seeking Scales to assess the SS trait in individuals who expressed a desire to skydive. We obtained measures of autonomic (heart rate) and endocrine (salivary cortisol) activity before, during and after skydiving. To distinguish the contribution of novelty, we compared novices (N=29) to experienced jumpers (N=15). All jumpers exhibited HPA-axis activation; novices exhibited a prolonged response and more extreme peak in cortisol compared to experienced jumpers, suggesting that novelty contributes to an intense pattern of stress responding. Both groups displayed increases in heart rate; there were no significant differences between the groups, indicating that repeated exposure to the stressor did not habituate this system. We provided evidence that the stress response systems instantiate novelty and risk to motivate and reward behavioral expressions of the SS trait.

Rights

The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.

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