Poster E14, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Evidence for Individual Differences in Emotionally-Driven Pupillary Reactivity
Connor Mckee1, Paola Tirado1, Justin Litvin1, Ivan Carbajal1, Anthony Ryals1; 1University of North Texas
A long-standing assumption is that pupillary dilation occurs in response to emotional versus neutral stimuli regardless of valence/arousal covariance. Evidence from our lab suggests the majority of individuals express global pupillary dilation, while a subset of individuals express pupillary constriction specifically for aversive stimuli. We recorded pupillary responsivity in 40 college-age individuals while viewing affective images tightly controlled for content, luminosity, valence, and arousal. Participants viewed lists of 25 backward-masked images for four seconds each in one of four emotional conditions counterbalanced for order. In between the lists of images, participants completed a five-minute breathing exercise. As expected, we observed that mean pupil area was significantly higher for images high in arousal (regardless of valence) compared to neutral control images. Baseline-corrected follow-up analyses revealed that in 32% of our sample, mean pupil area was significantly lower than control images only for aversive (highly arousing negatively valenced) stimuli. This pattern suggests that certain individuals respond differently to highly emotionally-charged images. Furthermore, these data provide some support for the aversion-constriction hypothesis proposed by Hess (1965) and may be indicative of metabolic differences (i.e., sympathetic vs. parasympathetic dominance) in the general population. This could have important implications for theories of post-traumatic stress disorder and predicting individual psychophysiological responses in trauma-exposed populations.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions