Past studies beginning with Jackson et al. [Jackson, D.C., Malmstadt, J.R., Larson, C.L., Davidson, R.J., 2000. Suppression and enhancement of emotional responses to unpleasant pictures. Psychophysiology 37 (4), 515-522.] document increases and decreases in emotionally-potentiated startle by way of instructing participants to enhance or suppress their emotional responses to symbolic sources of threat (unpleasant pictures). The present study extends this line of work to a threat-of-shock paradigm to assess whether startle potentiation elicited by threat of actual danger or pain is subject to emotion regulation. Results point to successful volitional modulation for both Affective-Picture and Threat-of-Shock experiments with startle magnitudes from largest to smallest occurring in the enhance, maintain, and suppress conditions. Successful regulation of startle potentiation to the threat of shock found by the current study supports the external validity of the Jackson paradigm for assessment of regulation processes akin to those occurring in the day-to-day context in response to real elicitors of emotion.
- Emotion regulation