Acute crowding: A reliable method for inducing stress in humans

R. A. Karlin, Y. M. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Researchers in social and clinical psychology often need to study the reactions of stressed subjects in laboratory environments. Thus, there is a need to develop paradigms to produce measurable social stress in the laboratory. A simple, non-deceptive manipulation-crowding-is seen as meeting this need. In this manipulation, subjects are seated in a small room so as to maximize body and eye contact and forbidden to talk. Results indicate that when compared to their noncroweded counterparts, crowded subjects show higher arousal on skin conductance and cardiac measures. Following the Yerkes-Dodson Law, they show some evidence of increased simple task performance and decreased complex task performance. Further, they show more negative mood and lowered tolerance for frustration after crowding. They also report greater discomfort and more stress related symptoms than do noncrowded subjects. These effects are not susceptible to the influence of simple demand and suggestion. They do not habituate rapidly, even after repeated exposure to crowding. The concenptual relevance of crowding to real world social stressors and the few measurement problems with this procedure are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-370
Number of pages14
JournalResearch Communications in Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1979

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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