Emotion experience and physiology in response to masked and non-masked presentations of emotional pictures
AuthorNielsen, Helen L.
AdvisorKaszniak, Alfred W.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractRecent theories propose that subtle emotional feelings can guide decision-making when insufficient information about the source of those feelings exists. To assess whether emotion experiences possess the properties necessary to play this functional role, subjects in the present study reported on feelings elicited by visually masked emotional pictures. Potential sources of individual differences in the ability to discriminate subtle "gut feelings" were also explored. 16 long-term meditators and 18 non-meditators viewed a series of pictures with pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant content, both masked and nonmasked, and reported on experienced valence and arousal, while measures of skin conductance (SCR), facial electromyography (EMG), and heart rate (HR) were simultaneously recorded. Masked emotional pictures did not elicit discriminatory SCR or EMG responses. HR discriminated among masked pictures by arousal, but not by valence. Both meditators and controls discriminated among masked stimuli in self-reported arousal, but only non-meditators demonstrated accurate valence discrimination. Unpleasant pictures were better discriminated from neutral pictures than were pleasant pictures. Ability to detect feelings elicited by masked stimuli was unrelated to heartbeat detection ability, cardiac vagal tone, or self-reported attention to emotional states, though self-reported emotional clarity predicted better arousal discrimination. It is proposed that awareness of emotion experience may involve both a visceral awareness and a non-visceral awareness of feeling qualities. Long-term meditation practice of the type adopted by participants in the present study, with its focus on the former, may reduce access to non-visceral feeling states.
Degree ProgramGraduate College