Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


This study was intended to provide information regarding the use of the EMG to aid students who wish to concentrate and study better. The study hypothesized that the electromyography could be used to train subjects to attain specific levels of muscular tension and that these levels of tension would influence performance on a mental task. Twenty volunteer subjects were assigned to four groups: 1) a no treatment group, 2) a relaxation group, 3) a moderate tension group, 4) a high tension group. The study consisted of a base line session, five treatment sessions and a second baseline session. Subjects read and answered multiple choice questions at each session. Those in experimental treatment condition underwent a training period using the EMG to monitor self-induced tension or relaxation. They then read with the EMG operating, on all treatment days. Dependent measures were 1) total reading time, 2) the number of lines read, 3) the number of times the subject lost concentration, 4) tile average number of lines read between lapses in concentration, 5) the number of answers attempted, 6) the number of correct answers. It was expected in accord with predictions from the research of Yerkes and Dodson (1908) that the mode rate tension group would perform better than all other groups and that the biofeedback groups would perform better than the no treatment group. Data were analyzed by a 4X5and 4x2 repeated measures ANOVA. Group differences occurred for one measure, the number of answers attempted, with the no treatment group being highest. There were differences across trials for all variables on one or both ANOVAs. Although subjects had no difficulty in maintaining a stable microvolt level during training sessions, results did not reflect the expected curvilinear, inverted U relationship between tension and performance. This may have been, in part, the result of a limited upper range of the EMG which was used. Of the four groups, relaxation subjects were unable to maintain the desired level of relaxation and perform the required task at the same time. It was decided to emphasize completion of the task. Different results might have been obtained had relaxation been emphasized. Improvement across trials for all variables indicates a practice effect. No treatment subjects had more correct answers and read more lines between lapses in concentration, but an examination of class grades suggests that students in this group had superior intelligence, better study skills, or both. Subjects in all other groups lost concentration less often, indicating some improvement in the ability to concentrate.


John C. Gurski

Date of Award

Fall 1978

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1978 Neva J. Merriman


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