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Psychophysiology. 1997 Jan;34(1):97-107.

Fear and the startle reflex: blink modulation and autonomic response patterns in animal and mutilation fearful subjects.

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Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald, Institut für Psychologie, Germany.


The present study was designed to examine the pattern of startle reflex modulation and autonomic responses for individuals high in animal or blood-injury fear when viewing pictures of their feared objects. Sixteen individuals in each fear group and 16 low-fear control individuals viewed 32 color slides depicting fear-relevant, unpleasant but fear-unrelated, neutral, and pleasant scenes. Free viewing times were assessed in a second phase of the procedure as an index of avoidance behavior. Exposure to pictures of feared objects resulted in a consistent startle reflex potentiation and behavioral avoidance in both fear groups. This activation of the basic aversive system was independent of the autonomic pattern of the fear responses, which differed for the high-fear groups. These results suggest that the probe startle response indexes the organism's basic motivational disposition and add new information to the assessment of fear.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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