By Hal S. Kopeikin, Ph.D.
The following information is a copy of overheads I've developed for lectures on Sensation Seeking that I've delivered at UCSB. For questions or permission to use these materials, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sensation Seeking Defined
Zuckerman's Senation Seeking Scale
Perception & cognition
Sensation Seeking Defined:
Sensation Seeking is the tendency to pursue novel & stimulating experiences. Those high in Sensation Seeking have strong positive affective reactions to situations of novelty & risk, are sensitive to internal sensations and choose environments that augment them.
Related to preference for
Implies higher optimal level of arousal
Sensation Seeking is described as a trait or state.
Zukerman's Sensation Seeking SCALE (Form IV)
General Scale, with 4 subscales
Consistent across sexes (except Boredom Susceptibility)
The four subscales are moderately intercorrelated
which makes sense, since there is a "common core"
stabilized between 16-20, then steady decline
except experience seeking
disinhibition subscale shows especially large differences
Thrill & Adventure Seeking Subscale is most related to these:
High sensation seekers are "egocentrically extroverted, concerned with others as an audience and source of stimulation rather than in a dependent or nurturant sense. They tend to maintain autonomy through assertive relationships with others rather than isolation. They are nonconformists and risk takers. They are somewhat asocial in the sense that they are ruled by their own needs rather than by social conventions or the needs and attitudes of others." They yearn for independence and hedonistic self fulfillment with others like them.
In clinical populations, Sensation Seeking is related to Mania and Psychopathic character disorders, although the latter is primarily related to Disinhibition and Experience Seeking, rather than Thrill and Adventure Seeking.
Factor and Cluster analyses confirm Sensation Seeking is related to an impulsive character-disorder style, and minimally related to neurotic and depressive styles. It is unrelated to trait anxiety, but negatively related to specific fearfulness, especially in situations where there is danger of physical harm (esp. Thrill & Adventure scale).
Remember, Sensation Seeking is not abnormal trait. Most high, medium, or low scorers do not develop mental disorders. It may play a role in determining the type of disorder, but does not produce or preclude mental illness.
Sensation Seeking is characterized by positive attitudes towards emotion, especially positive or joyful affect. Expression tends to be more uninhibited.
Sensation Seeking predicts an open, receptive attitude toward experience and the ability to tolerate sensations and ideas that are unusual strange and primitive.
Sensation Seeking is positively related to masculinity; negatively towards femininity and androgeny.
Hi sensation seekers
Negative life stress has more impact among low sensation seekers
more impact reported by those low in SS
Perception and Cognition
Those high in Sensation Seeking
Low, positive correlation with IQ and academic aptitude
however, high sensation seekers are not always high achievers. Boredom and disinhibition may interfere with academic functioning.
Vocations, Interests, Values, Attitudes
ss is positively related to preference for personal interactions, negatively related to interests in clerical or business occupations
ss is negatively correlated with interests in stereotypically feminine occupations like housewife and teacher.
Sensation seekers like aesthetic and social/humanistic activities
Thrill and Adventure seeking is elevated in aviators and police
Sensation Seeking is positively related to liberalism, negatively to conservatisim
low sensations seekers tend to be higher on authoritarianism
high sensation seekers have more permissive sexual attitudes.
SS is positively related to sexual expression
earlier, more extensive experiences
more variety in actions and partners
interest in erotic stimuli
in females, more likely to breastfeed infants
SS is positively related to drug experiences
alcohol, illicit drugs, cigarettes
Sensation Seekers enjoy variety in activities and novelty, and seems to be a "displacable motive"
This has interesting implications for prevention and treatment of drug abuse
SS is positively related to
SS is negatively related to
Approximately 50% of variability in SS seems to be genetic
© Hal S. Kopeikin, Ph.D. 1997