The sweat glands in the palms and soles are well known highly sensitive to mental activity. Their reactions to emotions and information processing are measured by electrical methods as a momentary increase in the skin’s ability to lead a weak stream when the sweat gland ducts are filled with sweat. Hence the name electrodermal reactions (derma = skin). In the EDOR Test of Emotra the responses are measured to a repeated identical tone through headphones presented according to a for the patient unpredictable schedule.
When an unexpected event occurs for the first time (the first test tone) a reaction called “What is it?”- reaction is triggered (Pavlov, 1927). We pause to orient us about what is happening. Attention (interest, curiosity) is automatically focused on processing additional information about the event by collecting more information through all senses and by comparisons with similar events in memory in order to judge if it is threatening, attractive or insignificant. The extent of processing is reflected in the size of the electrodermal reaction. This first reaction is scientifically termed as a general orienting reaction because of the wide range of information that is collected and processed from all sensory organs and associations. The general orienting reaction has an immediate survival value and can actually be traced in all species down to single-celled organisms.
When such an event is judged to be insignificant, it is important to learn the event in all its details and the situation in which it occurred in order to avoid the need to react to it again and instead to focus attention on key tasks. Learning requires repetition. In Emotra’s test the insignificant tone is repeated several times. Each time it occurs, it elicits another type of reaction, a specific orienting reaction. Information is collected and processed only from those specific sensory organs and associations that are relevant for the specific repeated tone. Every time the tone occurs, additional properties of the tone are treated in successively smaller and smaller scale because of the fewer remaining details processed until a clear memory model of the event in the situation has become created. Then the eliciting of the specific orienting reaction ceases to be elicited. When the event occurs later, it is ignored automatically without loss of focus on key tasks. The result of this function, which is scientifically known as habituation, is that we can move in our normal environment without caring about the large amount of impressions that belong to “the ordinary” that we have habituated to. It also means that we can respond to very small deviations in the environment. The specific orienting reactions have a survival value in the long term if they had led to a complete memory model. For example, the animal is standing by the bushes where the wind rustling in the leaves and detects another rustle of an animal creeping in the bushes. If the animal has not learned to distinguish between what is usual, the wind rustling, from the resembling rustle of a potentially threatening or attractive animal, the consequence may be fatal.
The general and specific orienting reactions can be measured under specific conditions with electrodermal method in Emotra’s EDOR Test.