The Postauricular Relfex Measures Positive Emotion, Not (Angry) Approach
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The potentiation of the postauricular reflex during pleasant emotional states may arise from input from left frontal brain regions, which suggests that this reflex may assess approach processing instead of positive emotion. We used a competitive reaction time game (with a $5 gift card as stakes) and a picture viewing paradigm to determine whether the postauricular reflex measures positive emotion or approach processing. In the competitive reaction time game, participants pressed a button as quickly as possible, with the goal being to press the button faster than the (ultimately computerized) opponent. After each trial, participants had the option of shocking their opponent, ostensibly to worsen the opponent's performance. In the first half of the game, participants never received shocks themselves, which created a baseline for measuring emotional reactivity in the game. In the second half of the game, they received shocks on half the trials, which we expected to elicit an angry reactive aggression against the opponent. Consistent with this interpretation, participants shocked their opponents more in the reactive than the baseline block, d = 0.50, 95% CI [0.28, 0.72]. However, postauricular reflexes were not greater during the reactive than the baseline block, d = ‐0.12, 95% CI [‐0.38, 0.14], indicating that it was not modulated by negative approach processing. In contrast, postauricular reflexes were substantially larger during pleasant than aversive pictures, d = 0.62, 95% CI [0.37, 0.86], demonstrating that this reflex measures positive emotion, not approach processing.
Postauricular reflex; Shock; Anger
The Postauricular Relfex Measures Positive Emotion, Not (Angry) Approach.