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Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Jun;56(3):271-81.

Non-conscious modulation of cardiac defense by masked phobic pictures.

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Department of Psychology, University of Jaen, Spain.


The present study investigated the modulation of cardiac defense by presenting emotional pictures under both effective and non-effective masking procedures. The aim was to test Ohman's model of pre-attentive processing of fear. Participants were 48 women volunteers with intense fear of spiders. The stimulus to elicit cardiac defense was a white noise of 105 dB, 500 ms duration and instantaneous risetime. Subjects had two trials of picture-noise presentation-one with a picture of a spider and one with a picture of a flower-, either under an effective masking procedure (30 ms duration) or a non-effective masking procedure (500 ms duration). Order of presentation was counterbalanced. Dependent variables were heart rate and subjective assessment of the noise. Results showed an increased cardiac response in the first trial and a less reduced cardiac response in the second trial when the noise was preceded by the phobic picture under both masking procedures. The response was accompanied by an increase in the subjective unpleasantness of the noise. These results provide support to Ohman's theoretical model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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