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Startle modulation during violent films: Association with callous–unemotional traits and aggressive behavior

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-333
Number of pages13
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2015


The current study examined the unique and interactive associations of callous–unemotional (CU) traits, impulsive and premeditated aggression with startle modulation to violent films. Eighty-five participants (Mage = 20.52) at differential risk of CU traits, selected from a sample of 1105 young adults, participated in the physiological experiment. Startle eye-blink responses to acoustic probes were recorded during violent, comedy and neutral films. Self-report ratings of valence and arousal were also collected. Findings from regression analysis documented that CU traits were associated with diminished startle potentiation to violent films, whereas impulsive aggression was associated with increases in startle potentiation. Further, the negative association between CU traits with startle potentiation, valence, and arousal ratings to violent films was moderated by impulsive aggression. At the group level, individuals high on impulsive aggression without CU traits were the ones showing the highest levels of startle potentiation to violent films, and scored on the opposite extreme compared to individuals high on both CU traits and impulsive aggression.

    Research areas

  • callous–unemotional traits, impulsive aggression, premeditated aggression , startle modulation, fearlessness

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