Sensation seeking and the aversive motivational system

Shmuel Lissek, Johanna M.P. Baas, Daniel S. Pine, Kaebah Orme, Sharone Dvir, Emily Rosenberger, Christian Grillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Sensation seeking (SS) has traditionally been viewed as a phenomenon of the appetitive motivational system. The limited SS research exploring contributions from the aversive motivational system reveals greater anxious reactivity to dangerous activities among low sensation seekers. The present study extends this line of work by comparing levels of fear and anxiety during anticipation of predictable and unpredictable aversive stimuli across high- and low-SS groups. Low sensation seekers displayed greater fear-potentiated startle (FPS) to predictable aversive stimuli, and only those low on SS showed FPS and skin conductance response effects during experimental contexts in which aversive stimuli were delivered unpredictably. Findings implicate enhanced apprehensive anticipation among those low on SS as a potential deterrent for their participation in intense and threatening stimulus events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-407
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Psychophysiology
  • Sensation seeking
  • Startle


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