Attention in hysteria: a study of Janet's hypothesis by means of habituation and arousal measures

Am J Psychiatry. 1980 Feb;137(2):217-20. doi: 10.1176/ajp.137.2.217.


Toward the end of the 19th century, Janet suggested that the fundamental disorder in hysteria was one of attention. The authors examined this idea in a study of habituation. Patients with a history of prolonged conversion symptons (N = 11) showed a severe impairment in habituation when compared with patients with anxiety neuroses (N = 10). This finding cannot be explained in terms of arousal and suggests that selective inattention is deficient in hysterical individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Arousal*
  • Attention*
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic*
  • Humans
  • Hysteria / psychology*
  • Male