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November 2021

The role of neuroticism in startle reactions to fearful and disgusting stimuli

Author(s): Kumari, V., Gray, J. A., Corr, P. J.

Journal/Book: Pers Indiv Differ. 2000; 29: the Boulevard Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford Ox5 1GB, England. Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd. 1077-1082.

Abstract: It has frequently been observed that negative moods potentiate the startle reflex to unexpected, threatening stimuli. However, recent work from our laboratory suggests that this effect relates primarily to the emotion of fear or anxiety, while stimuli which evoke powerful feelings of disgust can in some circumstances inhibit the startle reflex. In this study we reanalyse data from 42 subjects in whom eyeblink amplitudes to an auditory probe were measured whilst viewing emotionally arousing film clips. Classifying the negative film clips into separate categories of ''frightening'' vs ''disgusting'' revealed a previously undetected interaction with EPQ Neuroticism. High N subjects showed greater startle reactions than low N subjects under fearful conditions but low N subjects showed greater startle when disgust was evoked. This suggests that Neuroticism may increase vigilance where evasive action is possible but promote emotional blunting when escape is not an option.

Note: Article Wilson GD, Univ London, Inst Psychiat, Dept Psychol, De Crespigny Pk, London SE5 8AF, ENGLAND


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