Immediate and proactive effects of controllability and predictability on plasma cortisol responses to shocks in dogs

Behav Neurosci. 1983 Dec;97(6):1005-16. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.97.6.1005.


Controllability and predictability are important modulators of the behavioral effects of aversive stimulation on animals. An experiment was conducted to further investigate both the immediate and proactive effects of controllability and predictability of shocks on adrenocortical responsivity. In an initial stress induction phase, the controllability and predictability of electric shocks were independently varied in groups of dogs, and plasma cortisol responses were measured. In a subsequent test phase, all groups of dogs received identical shocks in a novel situation. Cortisol responses to these test shocks were analyzed as a function of the controllability and predictability of previous induction shocks. The results showed that during stress induction, uncontrollable shocks produced significantly greater cortisol elevations that controllable shocks but that predictability had no significant effect on cortisol responses. However, unpredictable shocks during stress induction acted proactively to significantly increase cortisol response to novel test shocks, whereas prior controllability did not modulate subsequent responsivity to novel shocks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Electroshock*
  • Escape Reaction / physiology
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*


  • Hydrocortisone