In the face of anger: startle modulation to graded facial expressions.Psychophysiology. 2010 Sep; 47(5):874-8.P
In the present study, the startle reflex was examined with respect to the degree of anger displayed in facial expressions. To this end, 52 participants viewed faces that were morphed to display 0, 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100% anger. As the percentage of anger in faces increased from 0 to 100%, faces were perceived as increasingly angry; however, relative to neutral facial expressions, startle amplitude was only potentiated to maximally angry faces. These data imply a non-linear relationship between the intensity of angry faces and defensive physiological activity. This pattern of startle modulation suggests a categorical distinction between threatening (100% anger) and other facial expressions presented. These results are further discussed in terms of existing data, and how this paradigm might be utilized in psychopathology research.