Unpredictable and uncontrollable events: A new perspective on experimental neurosis

Susan Mineka*, John F. Kihlstrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

235 Scopus citations


Recent work has shown that unpredictable and/or uncontrollable events can produce a variety of cognitive, affective, and somatic disturbances to the organism. These disturbances are compared to and found to be quite similar to the symptoms of the classic cases of experimental neurosis described by Pavlov, W. H. Gantt, H. S. Liddell, J. H. Masserman, and J. M. Wolpe. The hypothesis is then developed that the common element in the experimental neurosis literature is that important life events become unpredictable or uncontrollable, or both. This interpretation is contrasted with the earlier physiological, psychodynamic, and behavioral interpretations made by the investigators themselves. The implications of this analysis of experimental neurosis for various issues in the predictability-controllability literature are discussed--for example, the interaction between unpredictability and controllability, the "threshold" for response to lack of predictability or controllability, and the lack vs the loss of predictability and controllability. Finally, the possible clinical relevance of this new perspective on experimental neurosis is discussed. (66 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-271
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1978


  • predictability & controllability of life events, experimental neurosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Unpredictable and uncontrollable events: A new perspective on experimental neurosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this