This experiment examined individual differences in emotional responsivity by recording the startle eyeblink reflex while 57 college students viewed affect-laden pictures and then rated their pleasantness. All participants first completed measures of affect intensity, alexithymia, and depression. Startleprobes were some-times presented at 120, 300, 800, or 4,500 ms after slide onset. By 300 ns, blinks elicited during negative slides were larger than those elicited during positive ones. Negative slides were also rated as more unpleasant. Moreover, all three personality variables moderated either the valence ratings, startle modification, or both. High-affect intensity was associated with diminished modulation of startle, but more extreme ratings. Alexithymia had no effect on the startle measure, but high-alexithymia participants did show more moderate ratings. Depressed participants exhibited accelerated (120 ms) modulation of startle. The results suggest the importance of measuring both physiological responses and subjective feelings in the study of individual differences in emotion.
Vanman, E. J., Dawson, M. E., & Brennan, P. A. (1998). Affective reactions in the blink of an eye: Individual differences in subjective experience and physiological responses to emotional stimuli. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(9), 994-1005.