Does emotion modulate the blink reflex in human conditioning? Startle potentiation during pleasant and unpleasant cues in the picture–picture paradigm

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Emotional processes modulate the size of the eyeblink startle reflex in a picture-viewing paradigm, but it is unclear whether emotional processes are responsible for blink modulation in human conditioning. Experiment 1 involved an aversive differential conditioning phase followed by an extinction phase in which acoustic startle probes were presented during CS+, CS−, and intertrial intervals. Valence ratings and affective priming showed the CS+ was unpleasant postacquisition. Blink startle magnitude was larger during CS+ than during CS−. Experiment 2 used the same design in two groups trained with pleasant or unpleasant pictorial USs. Ratings and affective priming indicated that the CS+ had become pleasant or unpleasant in the respective group. Regardless of CS valence, blink startle was larger during CS+ than CS− in both groups. Thus, startle was not modulated by CS valence.

Keywords: Affective learning; Conditioning; Emotion; Eyeblink startle

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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