Exploring psychophysiological research methods

Beyond borders: exploring psychophysiological research methods

Thursday, 13 October, 2011

More and more, scientists across a wide spectrum of research backgrounds are recognizing the relevance of psychophysiological methods. Zimmerman et al. (2008) argue that combining different modalities leads to a more complete picture of the phenomena under study. This leads to the inevitable question of what phenomena scientists that make use of psychophysiological methods are studying. What kind of research fields or disciplines do they come from?

Psychophysiology in clinical communication research

In clinical communication research Finset, et al. (2011) use a combination of behavioral observation and psychophysiology. In their study, this combination led to a better understanding of conscious and unconscious processes. By recording medical interviews with a digital video camera and synchronizing the video signal with the patients’ physiological data in The Observer® XT, they gathered valuable information about the dynamics of emotion in these medical interviews.

The Observer XT

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Psychophysiology in intellectual disability research

A further example of such cross-modal research is rooted in the field in intellectual disabilities research. Vos et al. (2010) measured the behavioral and physiological reactions of persons with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities towards chosen stimuli. Vos et al. explored a non-interpretative method to measure the subjective well-being in people with limited communicative skills, triangulating their data with behavioral observations. As a result, they observed physiological differences between positive and negative emotions, linking the emotional response to the physiological outputs.

Combine research methods

Isn’t it interesting to see how researchers from different disciplines are taking steps towards combining behavioral coding with psychophysiological methods? Investigating the power of different research methods is an integral part of scientific research. In the end, these methods should assist in answering the research question.


  • Finset, A.; Stensrud, T.L.; Holt, E.; Verheul, W.; Bensing, J. (2011) Electrodermal activity in response to empathic statements in clinical interviews with fibromyalgia patients. Patient Education and Counseling82 (3), 355-360.
  • Vos, P.; Cock P. de; Petry, K. Noortgate, W. van den; Maes, B. (2010). Do you know what I feel? A first step towards a physiological measure of the subjective well-being of persons with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. Journal of applied research in intellectual disabilities23, 366-378.
  • Zimmerman, P.H.; Bolhuis, L.; Willemsen, A.; Meyer, E.S.; Noldus, L.P.J.J. (2008). The Observer XT: a tool for the integration and synchronization of multimodal signals. Proceedings of Measuring Behavior 2008 (Maastricht, The Netherlands, August 26-29, 2008), 125-126.