Idaho State Journal from Pocatello, Idaho on November 9, 1977 · Page 32
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Idaho State Journal from Pocatello, Idaho · Page 32

Pocatello, Idaho
Issue Date:
Wednesday, November 9, 1977
Page 32
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Skin Talks -- And It May Not Be Saying What You Want To · - , V , N O V E M B E R ? i«' 'DAHO ST ATE JOURNAL'SECTION EDITOR'S NOTE: One of the strange properties of the human body is the ability of the skin to conduct an electric current. Leading physiologist Dr. Barbara Brown says that our skin provides a peepshow into our most private emotions. In this third of an original, four-part series, she poink out that, through bioieedback training, this body electricity can be used, individuals can learn to control their own skin talk--itchy rashes, say, or perspiration-as well as they can regulate their heart rate, blood pressure and brain waves. By Dr. BARBARA B. BROWN Copyright 1977 Field Enterprises, Inc. The mystery of why several prominent Los Angeles television newscasters suddenly lost their jobs last year was revealed only recently. It was reported in TV Guide and the San Francisco Chronicle in March that video tapes of their newscasting performance were played to audiences wired to record reactions of the electrical activity of the skin. Known to psychology researchers as the G.S.R. (Galvanic Skin Reflex), changes in the conductivity of the electrical potential of the skin have long been used as a physical measure of emotional reactions. The best known use of the G.S.R. is as the principal part of the lie detector. The newscasters became victims of a new technology for using the body's physiology to record, even expose, people's inner thoughts and feelings in the form of physical documents. Renewed psychologic and medical interest in body functions as indicators of emotions and feelings has prompted bioengineers to refine instruments that detect the body's physiologic activities. It is well-known in the medical and psychophysiologic sciences that, when sensitive enough instruments are used, they can detect changes in the body's functions caused by thoughts related to emotions. Most people know that when they try to lie, their hearts beat faster and their respiration becomes irregular. But most people don't know that the electrical activity of the skin changes dramatically, too. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN what goes on in the mind and skin electrical activity is still not completely understood, although researchers have pursued the secret for nearly a hundred years. The phenomenon is related to sweating; when a person is nervous and apprehensive, he usually perspires. But, long before the sweat actually appears on the skin, the sweat glands are preparing to secrete. The preparation to sweat is triggered by nerve impulses activated by events going on in the brain when a person is reacting emotionally to some event or social situation. It is the act of the sweat glands preparing to secrete that shifts their mineral and fluid content; and this, in turn, changes the amount of resistance to the fio\v of electrical currents throughout the body. The entire body, every cell, gives off minute electrical currents when active: and, in large part, it is the sum of the body's electrical activity that is conducted by the skin, especially that of the sweat glands. When the sweat glands change their activity, the ease with which the electrical currents are conducted is also changed. With proper equipment, the skin's electrical changes can be amplified as esaily as stereo sound, and the electrical signals can be used to move a pen on a recording device. In this way, the skin's electrical activity can be matched with answers to questions asked during a lie-detector test. It is then a simple matter to compare answers to questions producing emotions with the changes inscribed by the pen. The instrument becomes the voice box for the skin, and the skin communicates the inner activity of the mind. The reason 1 dubbed skin electrical activity "skin talk" is because it is much more than a physiologic reaction. Depending upon the personality, the cultural background, the mood of the person, even upon age. sex and type oi brain hemispheric dominance, the skin's electrical activity will change in different ways to reveal emotion. SOMETIMES, DEPENDING upon intensity of the emotions and the way the person handles emotional problems, the change will be lightning fast; at other times, it will be slow. Or the change may be large, or small, or oscillating, and returning to the normal state may also be fast, slow or variable. This means that there are many features of the skin's responses, almost exactly like one's own voice box, that can produce soft or loud tones, high or low tones, and all the other individual idiosyncracies of vocal communication that make it so easy to recognize another person's voice. Science has catalogued many of these idiosyncracies and can literally typecast people by their skin talk. It has been found, for example, that females and blacks have better skin electrical conduction that males and whites, but that the conductance improves with age in everyone. Also, the skin talk of the right side of the body is louder and clearer for everyone than that of the left, regardless of whether one is right- or left-handed. Interestingly, ethnic differences show up in skin talk--maybe as a mirror of long cultural influence on the way a person expresses emotion. The skin responses to electrical shock of Jews, Italians and Irishmen adapt less quickly than those of Yankees. Carl Jung, possibly the most creative psychologist who ever lived, experimented with skin talk in 1900. Using a primitive instrument to record changes in skin electrical activity, he conducted psychological interviews with patients and found that the skin responded to hidden emotions. It is said he was so astounded by this phenomenon that he exclaimed, "Aha, a looking glass into the unconscious!" THE REST OF THE psychologic-scientific world may not have been ready for Jung's insights. But now, 70 years later, medical science has rediscovered the ex- treme'sensitivity of the body to reveal the emotions and thoughts of the mind. New medical research with new sophisticated instruments clearly shows that all physiologic systems of the body reveal the way the mind and emotions react to the stresses of life. Skin talk, as we know from the lie detector, is particularly sensitive to the nuances of emotion. Using an instrument to record changes in skin electrical activity, the skin talk shows that feelings, specific emotional reactions and thoughts can be recorded more faithfully than the complicated, convoluted use of language usually allows. Psychotherapists are coming to realize that skin talk can be used in counseling and psychotherapy to uncover emotional problems more quickly than dialogue. Imagine that you have a personal problem--the kind that's so troublesome you can't even admit part of what's bothering you to yourself. . .like problem sex or not knowing why you aren't being successful on a job you really like. Let's say you are depressed 'and worry about committing suicide. You are confused, not really sure why you feel this way, and you can't crystallize the problem to yourself. So, you seek help. If you see a therapist who uses skin talk, the therapist can use the instrument to help probe emotions hidden in the unconscious. The skin does not hide secrel.s of the mind, and it m;:v reasons t h e mind cannot or will not rec- oini/.e because of repressed feelings. BUT, WITH THE DEVICE t h a t can detect skin Youngest Sextupiet Dies HdTIT'.HPAM.'Netherlands ( A l ' i Dennis Nijsson. YniMiivs; of ihc I'uti-h : \n-pirls born Sept ill. died oar- ' The seven-wi'i'H old mi.inl u n d c r w i ' i i l an oiicnihon ,i mon«i ago for a perforated Intestine. talk, both you and the therapist can watch the instrument while probing the emotional problem. The instrument shows responses of the skin that your throat cannot voice. Once the emotion is revealed as important to you by your own body, it becomes recognized as an emotional problem--and help can come faster. Like other new therapies, it may be some time before skin-talk psychotherapy becomes available to the general public, although public clamor for it can hasten the day. All new therapeutic techniques must undergo intense study to learn how effective and reliable they are. One of the pioneers in this area is Dr. Marjorie Toomin, in Los Angeles, but few other therapists are trained in the technique. Skin talk psychotherapy and counseling are on the move nonetheless because research is showing how body signals of all kinds reveal repressed emotions. When emotional problems can be pinpointed by the body's responding to discussions that evoke emotions, recovery from both the psychologic and physiologic symptoms occurs much more quickly than during con ventional drug treatment or psychotherapy. Current re search using the skin's electrical activity as a commu nications medium between patient and therapist looks promising in such stress problems as drug abuse, alco holism, neuroses and other tension states. , Until as recently as 10 years ago, skin talk was employed in only two ways. Psychology researchers stu died it in the laboratory to find its origins; and it was used as a tool to test certain learning theories. The only practical use of skin talk until now has been as the guts of the lie detector. Police work is not the only place lie detectors are used; many large industries use them to check on personnel records or when some company wrongdoing is suspected. AS LIE-DETECTING TECHNIQUES have been improved, skin talk has been found to be much more accurate in establishing a person's truthfulness than any verbal communication. The lie detector can usually find whether a suspect is telling the truth, and as many people have been found innocent by the reactions of their skin as have been found guilty. ...The body, and particularly the skin, has not learned how to hide emotions the way the mind has learned how to manipulate language to hide one's true feelings. The reason is because the body, and particularly the skin, has not learned how to hide the emotions the way the mind has learned how to manipulate language to hide one's true feelings. The discover of biofeedback learning may change the legal status of lie-detector use because it has shown that individuals can learn how to control their own skintalk as well as they can regulate their heart rate, blood pressure or brain waves. This raises the question about whether people under interrogation are being taken advantage of unfairly because they are neither Informed that skin talk can reveal secret thoughts nor that it may be their right to prepare for interrogation by first understanding what skin talk is and how it can be controlled. The lie detector, after all these years, may be found to infringe on personal rights. NEXT: Future Thought Waves. Attention, Miracle Whip people. Announcing If you're a Miracle Whip person, nobody has to tell you about Miracle Whip. You already know it. What you don't know about is N o i i - - v ' s new imitation salad dressing. M :2Jc Blend. YOU don't know Magic Blend tastes as good as Miracle Whip. '}((! don't know Magic Blend costs ir.v: f.inm Miracle Whip. :,;;d you don't know Magic Blend has ie-yer calories than Miracle Whip. « ». »» STORE COUPON . 25* off, So you can know. { O l l p t \ - i ! l he red -cmrfi lor 2"* plus r )C I m m U i n i ; o n l y irr when purchasing Muj;ic N l c m l T niusl pay any sales t a x . Special to: Nallcy's Tine roods, P.O. Hox R-7(M)h, Kl Past i! pi in is non assignable, (lash value 1/20*-"

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