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Visual cues of threat elicit greater steady-state electroencephalographic responses than visual reminders of death

Valentini, E and Gyimes, IL (2018) 'Visual cues of threat elicit greater steady-state electroencephalographic responses than visual reminders of death.' Biological Psychology. ISSN 0301-0511

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Abstract

Terror management theory (TMT) suggests that reminders of death activate an exclusive anxiety mechanism different from the one activated by other types of symbolic threats. This notion is supported by evidence showing how experimental participants verbally reflecting on their own death are then influenced in their opinions and behaviours. A previous study showed that magnitude of electroencephalography (EEG) activity is greater when images depicting death-related content are coupled with painful thermal stimuli compared to threat-related content. Here we expand on previous research by testing whether similar effects may be brought about by passive observation of generic visual reminders of death. More precisely, we hypothesised that fast periodic presentation of death-related vs. more generic threat-related images determine a preferential modulation of brain activity measured by means of EEG. In two experiments, we found that images depicting death content elicit lower frequency-tagged EEG response compared to more generic threat images. Visual evoked potentials revealed that a brief change of the scene from neutral to threat content elicits greater amplitude at the late latencies (compatible with a P300 potential), particularly at the parieto-occipital sites. Altogether, our findings suggest that, in a context where no reflection on death cues is allowed and no threatening stimuli in other modality occur, visual death cues trigger lower neural synchronisation than that elicited by similarly negative and arousing cues with divergent threatening meaning.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: affective pictures, death, electroencephalography, terror management theory, threat
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2018 10:37
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2018 10:37
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/23299

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