Cerebral asymmetry in autonomic conditioning to facial expressions: Sex differences


Department of Biological and Medical Psychology. University of Bergen, Aarstadveien 21, N-5009 Bergen, Norway


In the present experiment, sex differences in hemispheric asymmetry during classical conditioning to emotional stimuli are reported. 125 subjects (62 females and 63 males) were shown a slide of a happy face in the right (or left) visual half field (VHF), and simultaneously a slide of an angry face in the left (or right) VHF. Eight groups were formed by the combination of male and female subjects; left and right VHF positions of the angry/happy faces; and the administration/omission of the shock unconditioned stimulus (UCS). Dependent measures were skin conductance responses recorded from both hands. The results during extinction showed a significant larger SCR magnitude to the shock compared to the no-shock groups only for the female subjects. CS position during conditioning was also important in revealing differential responding to either the happy or angry faces. A right hemisphere effect was found for the angry face CS for both the male and female subjects, however with a greater difference for the females.