Startle reflex potentiation during aversive picture viewing as an indicator of trait fear

Uma Vaidyanathan, Christopher J. Patrick, Edward M. Bernat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Measures of fearfulness and measures of psychopathy show positive and negative associations, respectively, with startle reflex potentiation during unpleasant picture viewing. We tested the hypothesis that a common bipolar trait dimension underlies these differing associations. Blink responses to noise probes were recorded during pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant pictures in 88 undergraduates assessed with a battery of self-report scales indexing fear and psychopathy/fearlessness. A significant positive association was found between an omnibus index of fear, consisting of scores on the first component from a principal components analysis of these various scales, and startle potentiation during aversive picture viewing. This association was most robust, across participants overall and within gender subgroups, for scenes that were most directly threatening. Implications for psychophysiological research on individual differences and psychopathology are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Affective pictures
  • Fear
  • Individual differences
  • Startle blink reflex


Dive into the research topics of 'Startle reflex potentiation during aversive picture viewing as an indicator of trait fear'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this