Direct gaze of photographs of female nudes influences startle in men.Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 May; 72(2):111-4.IJ
Foreground presentation of photographs of opposite sex nudes lowers startle elicited by sudden acoustic stimuli. However, the impact of gaze direction of the presented nudes on this startle modulation has not been investigated. Theoretically, direct gaze of photographs of female nudes could either lead to a larger inhibition of the startle reaction due to a summating valence and arousal effect of direct eye contact, or lead to a smaller inhibition due to an attention capturing effect of the eyes. Two subsets of erotic photographs of female nudes (women looking directly at the observer vs. gazing away) and standard IAPS neutral pictures were viewed by 26 male volunteers, while startle eye blink responses to binaural bursts of white noise (50 ms, 105 dB) were recorded by EMG. Erotic pictures reduced startle eyeblink magnitude as compared to neutral pictures. Furthermore, erotic stimuli without direct gaze at the observer showed a greater startle eyeblink inhibition than erotic stimuli with direct gaze at the observer. Our data suggest that direct gaze of opposite sex nudes may direct attention to the face, thereby reducing the appetitive impact of an attractive body.