Progressive relaxation and meditation. A study of psychophysiological and therapeutic differences between two techniques

Paul M. Lehrer, Robert L. Woolfolk, Anthony J. Rooney, Barbara McCann, Patricia Carrington

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19 Scopus citations


Physiological and self-report data were collected on anxious subjects who participated in a study comparing progressive relaxation, meditation and a waiting-list control. The data provide some support for the Schwartz, Davidson and Goleman (1978) hypothesis of specific effects for different relaxation procedures, superimposed upon a generalized relaxation response. The similarities between techniques, however, were greater than the differences, both on physiological and self-report measures. Both techniques generated positive expectancies and produced decreases in a variety of self-reported symptoms and on EMG: but no skin conductance or frontal EEG effects were observed. Progressive relaxation produced bigger decreases in forearm EMG responsiveness to stressful stimulation and a generally more powerful therapeutic effect than meditation. Meditation produced greater cardiac orienting responses to stressful stimuli, greater absorption in the task and better motivation to practice than progressive relaxation; but it also produced more reports of increased transient anxiety. We found no significant differences between conditions in the therapeutic expectancies they generated. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-662
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1983

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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