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Behavioral modulation by mutilation pictures in women

DOI: 10.1590/S0100-879X2004000300011

Keywords: emotion, behavior, reaction time, sex differences, affective stimulus.

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Abstract:

previous studies have shown that women are more emotionally expressive than men. it is unclear, however, if women are also more susceptible to the emotional modulation of behavior imposed by an affective stimulus. to investigate this issue, we devised a task in which female subjects performed six sequential trials of visual target detection following the presentation of emotional (mutilation and erotic) or neutral pictures (domestic utensils and objects) and compared the data obtained in the present study with those described in a previous study with male subjects. the experiment consisted of three blocks of 24 pictures and each block had an approximate duration of 4 min. our sample consisted of 36 subjects (age range: 18 to 26 years) and each subject performed all blocks. trials following the presentation of mutilation pictures (283 ms) had significantly slower reaction times than those following neutral (270 ms) pictures. none of the trials in the "pleasant block" (271 ms) was significantly different from those in the "neutral block". the increase in reaction time observed in the unpleasant block may be related in part to the activation of motivational systems leading to an avoidance behavior. the interference effect observed in this study was similar to the pattern previously described for men. thus, although women may be more emotionally expressive, they were not more reactive to aversive stimuli than men, as measured by emotional interference in a simple reaction time task.

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