Strong Inference in Psychophysiological Science Chapter uri icon


  • Cambridge University Press 2017. The first Handbook of Psychophysiology was published more than four decades ago (Greenfield & Sternbach, 1972). Coverage in that Handbook emphasized the peripheral nervous system (PNS), an emphasis that many still identify with the term psychophysiology in accord with the history of psychophysiology. As is the case for physiological and other scientific fields, however, psychophysiology has changed dramatically since the appearance of its first Handbook. With the advent of new and powerful probes of the central nervous system (e.g., brain imaging techniques), there is an increased emphasis in the field on investigating the brain and central nervous system (CNS) as they relate to behavior. Investigations of elementary physiological events in normal thinking, feeling, and interacting individuals are commonplace, and new techniques are providing additional windows through which the neural events underlying psychological processes can be viewed unobtrusively. Instrumentation now makes it possible for investigators to explore the selective activation of discrete parts of the brain during particular psychological operations in normal individuals and patients. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has made it possible to stimulate or temporarily disable a region of the brain to study its role in cognitive operations, and studies of patients with lesions are becoming more precise both in their definition of the lesion and in their specification of behavior. Developments in tissue and blood assays, ambulatory recording devices, non-contact recording instruments, and powerful and mobile computing devices make it possible to measure physiological, endocrinological, and immunological responses in naturalistic as well as laboratory settings. New, powerful assays, including DNA genotyping, are now possible using minimally invasive or non-invasive procedures. With recent developments in molecular biology, behavioral genetics and epigenetics are becoming important new players in the field. However, the views from these windows are clear only because of the deliberate efforts of knowledgeable investigators. Knowledge and principles of physiological mechanisms, biometric and psychometric properties of the measures, statistical representation and analysis of multivariate data, and the structure of scientific inference are important if veridical information is to be extracted from biological and behavioral data. These are among the topics covered in depth in this Handbook. The field of psychophysiology has changed dramatically in other ways as well. The field used to be divided into distinct territories, typically defined by organ systems (e.g., cardiovascular, somatic), with relatively little integration across these systems.

author list (cited authors)

  • Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G., & Berntson, G. G.

citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors

  • Cacioppo, John T||Tassinary, Louis G||Berntson, Gary G

Book Title

  • Handbook of Psychophysiology

publication date

  • December 2016