How to Measure Galvanic Skin Response

Learning how to measure the galvanic skin response is of interest to scientists today because this test could offer insight into the true psychological and physiological state of a test subject beyond his verbal response to questioning. Galvanic skin response is a test that was first discovered in the early 1900s, and has continued to be used in the 21st Century in polygraph (lie detector) tests and some psychotherapy treatments. GSR measurements are typically taken on the fingers to determine electrical conductivity of the skin. By using these measurements, testers can determine the true emotional and mental state of the subject, which may assist in some formal investigations or mental health treatments.


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    Understand the type of device that will be used for your GSR test. Many of these devices attach to the fingers of the hand and provide electrical stimulus that accurately measures the conductivity of the area in response to different stimuli. The tests are considered non-invasive.
    • Some galvanic skin response tests are conducted with gloves that are worn on the hand and contain electrodes inside that measure the amount of conductivity in the palm of the hand. However, these devices are not considered the most accurate measures and are not typically used by professionals in mental health treatments or criminal investigations. More reliable devices involve electrodes attached to the fingertips, an amplifier that picks up the conductivity and a computer to analyze the results.
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    Prepare to answer a number of neutral questions first, to establish a baseline for the Galvanic skin response test, such as your name and whether you own a basic object like a bicycle. Answers to these questions should not be stressful, and therefore provide a baseline result for when you are not under stress of any kind. Any fluctuation in these results later in the Galvanic skin response tests will indicate a change in your electrical stimuli.
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    Get ready for questions that contain emotional content next. When the results from the neutral questions are compared to the results from the emotionally-charged questions, your tester can get an accurate idea of the amount of stimulus the emotional questions evoked. A change in the electrical conductivity could indicate the subject is not being completely truthful in his responses.
    • It is important to compare an individual's responses to various questions, rather than comparing one individual to another, since everyone responds to the galvanic skin response test differently. Changes for a single test subject could indicate the subject is not being truthful in all of his responses.
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    Avoid trying to manipulate the results of your galvanic skin response test by holding your breath or thinking calming thoughts. The GSR measurement is highly sensitive to immediate responses, which can be difficult to control with one's mind.


  • Bad contact with the galvanic skin test can affect the GSR measurement. Make sure the apparatus is working correctly and the instrument used to measure electrical impulses is worn properly to ensure accurate test results.Repeat the test to check accuracy

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Categories: Science