The relationship between affect intensity and visceral perception and visceral evoked potentials

Carolyn Louise O'Brien

Abstract

The present study attempted to replicate Blascovich et al.'s (1992) finding that affect intensity is inversely related to visceral perception ability. Secondly, the present study included an examination of the relation between affect intensity and the P300 component of visceral evoked potentials as well. Eighty undergraduate university students first completed the Affect Intensity Measure (Larsen, 1984). Visceral perception ability was assessed via a modified Whitehead task, rather than the modified Katkin design as used in Blascovich et al. (1992). Visceral evoked potentials, anchored to the R-spike of the heart rate cycle were recorded from the C 4' and F4 electrode locations. Physiological data were recorded in both sitting and reclining body positions. The present study found no relation between affect intensity and visceral perception, calling into question the inverse relation found in Blascovich et al. (1992). Many studies have suggested that the modified Whitehead task is a stronger measure of visceral perception than the Katkin paradigm and the present study suggests that the lack of support for Blascovich et al. (1992) is due to the stronger methodology used for assessing visceral perception. Consistent with the literature on affect intensity, women scored higher on the AIM than men. When analyzed by awareness groups, low aware women reported significantly higher AIM scores than low aware men while high aware men and women scored about the same. The present study suggests that differences in AIM scores by gender and awareness level may be due to differing cognitive strategies employed by men and women (Larsen et al., 1996; Pennebaker and Roberts, 1992). The present study found that affect intensity was not related to overall P300 amplitude. However, gender and body position did affect the relation between affect intensity and P300 amplitude, especially at C4 ' 500 ms post R-spike. High affect men had more positive P300 amplitudes in the sitting position and high affect women had more positive P300 amplitudes in the reclining position. Based on prior research on the functional aspects of the P300 waveform, it was suggested that affect intensity in men and women may be inversely related to focus of attention and/or motivation by body position.