Budzynski et al (1970) – Behavioural

Budzynski, Thomas, Johann Stoyva, and Charles Adler. “Feedback-induced muscle relaxation: Application to tension headache.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 1.3 (1970): 205-211.



This is the second study we will be looking at from the ‘managing stress’ section of ‘Stress’, as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into ‘Behavioural


The last study we looked at considered a cognitive method of reducing stress and anxiety: stress inoculation therapy. In the Budzynski et al (1970) different way to reduce stress is by using biofeedback which has a behavioural perspective as its basis.

By giving visual or audible feedback on the state of the body, and rewarding us for reducing that stress reaction, biofeedback would assume that we would be more likely to repeat the method of reducing stress. This is based upon behaviourist principles of learning and behaviour.

This is the technique used by Budzynski on his research with patients with tension headaches Tension headaches are felt across the top of the head and sometimes in the forehead; it gradually becomes worse and can last for weeks.  These headaches are thought to be caused by sustained contraction of the scalp and neck muscles which is associated with stress.  Therefore, it follows that by relaxing these muscles, the headaches should be reduced.


Budzynski et al (1970) – studied the use of biofeedback in reducing tension headaches.


To see whether biofeedback is an effective method of reducing tension headaches. 

Method and Design

Experiment, with patients being trained in a laboratory.

Volunteer Sampling was used.

Independent design. The participants were randomly allocated to one of three groups:

  • Group A
  • Group B
  • Group C

18 participants who replied to an advertisement in a local paper in Colorado.


For two weeks patients kept a record of their headaches.

Groups A and B were given 16 sessions of training, with 2 sessions each week for 8 weeks.

Group A were taught relaxation and told the ‘clicks’ of the biofeedback machine would reflect their muscle tension, with slower clicks indicating less muscle tension.

Group B were told to concentrate on the varying clicks. They were given pseudo-feedback.

Group C were given no training but were told they would begin training in two months.


The muscle tension of Group A was significantly different from Group B by the end of the training, and after three months, Group A’s tension was significantly lower than Group B’s.

Group A’s reported headaches dropped significantly from their baseline, whereas the other didn’t, and was also significantly less than Group B’s and Group C’s reported headaches.

Drug usage in Group A decreased, more than in Group B.

Group A reported less headache activity than Group B.

There was a follow up for Group A after 18 months, when four out of the six participants were contacted. Three reported very low headache activity and the fourth reported some reduction.


Biofeedback is an effective way at training patients to relax and reduce their tension headaches, so can be seen as an effective method of stress management.

Relaxation training is also more effective than just being monitored, but is better when used together with biofeedback.

Budzynski et al (1970) Evaluation

+ Usefulness – the study is highly useful as it suggests that using both relaxation training and biofeedback together is an effective way of managing stress.

+ Validity – the use of the pseudobiofeedback condition increases the validity of the study because we can see that effect observed in the real condition was not due to the placebo effect and was due to the manipulation.

– Small sample – the sample is both small and ethnocentric meaning generalising the results is difficult. Furthermore, the researchers only studied tension headaches and did not consider other medical ailments.

– Validity – the study was only a snapshot and therefore we cannot see if the results of the study stick or if the participants would require consistent treatment.


Budzynski, Thomas, Johann Stoyva, and Charles Adler. “Feedback-induced muscle relaxation: Application to tension headache.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 1.3 (1970): 205-211.

Further Reading

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide New Edition: Unit G543 Health and Clinical Psychology (Student Unit Guides)

Psych Yogi’s Top Ten Psychology Revision Tips for the A* Student

Article Name
Budzynski et al (1970) - Behavioural
Revise 'managing stress' section of 'Stress' part of your OCR A2 Health & Clinical Psychology course. Evaluation further categorised into 'Behavioural' Revision