Sensation seeking and startle modulation by physically threatening images

Shmuel Lissek, Alice Schade Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The potential moderating effect of sensation seeking on anxious reactivity to threatening experiences was assessed using the affective modulation of startle-blink paradigm. Startle blinks, as measured by electromyographic (EMG) activity in response to loud (100 dB) white-noise stimuli, were elicited during the presentation of positive, neutral, and threatening visual images. Unlike participants low in sensation seeking who showed blink potentiation during threatening versus neutral images, participants high in sensation seeking showed equal magnitudes of startle to neutral and threatening images. The results suggest that individuals high compared with low on sensation seeking are less anxiously reactive to physically threatening visual stimuli. No attenuation in startle magnitude was elicited by positive images among low or high sensation seekers suggesting that the positive images employed in the current study were not arousing enough to activate the appetitive arousal system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-197
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2003


  • Affective modulation of startle
  • Anxious reactivity
  • Psychophysiology
  • Resilience
  • Sensation seeking


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