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Article
Concepts are defined and evidence reviewed on whether control reduces stress in man. Individuals seem to prefer instrumental control over an aversive event, seem to prefer to administer it to themselves, and are less aroused when waiting for a controllable event. When groups without control have equal predictability, having control is still less arousing; as potential (but unexercised) control seems to be. The evidence also suggests that controllable events may hurt less. Methodological weaknesses and empirical gaps in these data are pointed out. These data are grossly inconsistent with Relevant Feedback theory and rather inconsistent with Information-seeking theory and Safety Signal theory. A Minimax hypothesis is proposed: When individuals control aversive events, they believe relief to be caused by a stable source—their own response. This belief entails that maximum future danger will be minimized. When they have no control, they believe relief to be less stable, which entails no guarantee that maximum future danger will be minimized. The data are largely consistent with the Minimax hypothesis and wholly consistent when Minimax is supplemented by the premise that aversive events hurt less when encountered against a background of relaxation.