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The startle response in psychophysiological research: modulating effects of contextual parameters

Die Schreckreaktion in der psychophysiologischen Forschung und ihre Beeinflussung durch kontextuelle Parameter

  • Startle reactions are fast, reflexive, and defensive responses which protect the body from injury in the face of imminent danger. The underlying reflex is basic and can be found in many species. Even though it consists of only a few synapses located in the brain stem, the startle reflex offers a valuable research method for human affective, cognitive, and psychological research. This is because of moderating effects of higher mental processes such as attention and emotion on the response magnitude: affective foreground stimulation and directed attention are validated paradigms in startle-related research. This work presents findings from three independent research studies that deal with (1) the application of the established "affective modulation of startle"-paradigm to the novel setting of attractiveness and human mating preferences, (2) the question of how different components of the startle response are affected by a physiological stressor and (3) how startle stimuli affect visual attention towards emotional stimuli. While the first two studies treat the startle response as a dependent variable by measuring its response magnitude, the third study uses startle stimuli as an experimental manipulation and investigates its potential effects on a behavioural measure. The first chapter of this thesis describes the basic mechanisms of the startle response as well as the body of research that sets the foundation of startle research in psychophysiology. It provides the rationale for the presented studies, and offers a short summary of the obtained results. Chapter two to four represent primary research articles that are published or in press. At the beginning of each chapter the contribution of all authors is explained. The references for all chapters are listed at the end of this thesis. The overall scope of this thesis is to show how the human startle response is modulated by a variety of factors, such as the attractiveness of a potential mating partner or the exposure to a stressor. In conclusion, the magnitude of the startle response can serve as a measure for such psychological states and processes. Beyond the involuntary, physiological startle reflex, startle stimuli also affect intentional behavioural responses, which we could demonstrate for eye movements in a visual attention paradigm.
  • Die Schreckreaktion ist eine schnelle und reflexive Abwehreaktion, welche den Körper vor unmittelbarer Schadeinwirkung beschützt. Der zugrundeliegende Reflex ist basal und findet sich bei zahlreichen Spezies. Obwohl es sich um einen einfach verschalteten Reflex unter Beteiligung weniger Synapsen handelt, lässt sich die Messung dieses Reflexes sinnvoll in die psychologische Forschung einbinden. Emotionale und attentionale Prozesse können die Reaktion abschwächen bzw. verstärken. Hat man Kenntnis über diese, die Schreckreaktion beeinflussenden, Faktoren, so lässt sich die Schreckreaktion zur Messung und Erforschung dieser psychischen Prozesse nutzen. Diese Arbeit umfasst drei unabhängige Studien, welche in unterschiedlichen Fachjournalen publiziert wurden. Diese Studien befassen sich damit, (1) ob und wie das Paradigma der affektiven Schreckreizmodulation zur Erfassung von Attraktivitätseinschätzungen und Partnerwahl genutzt werden kann, (2) wie die unterschiedlichen physiologischen Komponenten der Schreckreaktion auf eine Stressmanipulation reagieren und (3) wie Schreckreize die Reaktionen in Form von Blickbewegungen bei der Betrachtung emotionaler Stimuli beeinflussen können.

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  • Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Naturwissenschaften (Dr. rer. nat.)

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Metadaten
Author:Christian Eric Deuter
URN:urn:nbn:de:hbz:385-8328
Advisor:Hartmut Schächinger
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Date of completion:2014/01/08
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Granting institution:Universität Trier, Fachbereich 1
Date of final exam:2013/09/23
Release Date:2014/01/08
Tag:Affektive Schreckreiz-Modulation; Kaltwasssertest; Partnerwahl; Sakkade; Stress
affective startle modulation; cold pressor; mating preferences; saccade; stress
GND Keyword:Psychobiologie; Sakkade; Stress; Stressor
Institutes:Fachbereich 1 / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie

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