Differential effects of false feedback and actual autonomic arousal on emotional experience
The connection between autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and emotional experience is uncertain. Research demonstrating the necessity of ANS arousal is in conflict with the finding that false cardiac feedback can alter emotional experience. In the present study, we examined whether these contradictory results can be accounted for by individual differences. Some people (Personal cue responders) identify their emotions from their own bodily cues, such as their posture, facial expression, and vocalizations, while others (Situational cue responders) rely on cues from the environment, such as normative expectations about what most people would feel in a given circumstance (Duclos, Laird, Schneider, Sexter, Stern, & Van Lighten, 1989; Duncan and Laird, 1980; Kellerman and Laird, 1982). Therefore, Personal cue responders would be expected to rely on changes in actual cardiac activity and be unaffected by false feedback, whereas Situational cue responders might have the reverse pattern of responses. Participants were classified as Personal cue responders or Situational cue responders based on the extent to which their feelings were affected by their facial expressions of emotion during a facial expression manipulation procedure (Laird & Strout, 2007). Actual physiological responses and self-reported rating of emotion experience were measured continuously during a film that induced fear. Prerecorded sequences of (false) heartbeat sounds of varying frequency were also presented throughout the film. Results indicate that emotional experience and actual cardiac activity were highly associated for Personal cue responders. In comparison, fear experience was more related to false cardiac feedback for Situational cue responders. These findings are explained by self-perception theory as advanced by Laird (2007) which eliminates the conflict between competing emotion theories by more completely encompassing individual responses to situational and physiological cues.
0625: Personality psychology