Autonomic reactions to mutilation pictures: Positive affect facilitates safety signal processing


  • This research was supported by Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES). Partial support was also provided by grants from IBN-Net/FINEP and Institutos do Milênio MCT/CNPq.

Address reprint requests to: Eliane Volchan, Instituto de Biofisica Carlos Chagas Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Av. Carlos Chagas Filho, s/n, Cidade Universitaria, Ilha do Fundao, Rio de Janeiro, 21941-902, Brazil. E-mail:


For survival, humans are continuously vigilant for signs of danger. Equally important, but less studied, is our ability to detect and respond to safety cues. The trait of positive affect may be a key component determining human variability in safety detection. Here we investigate autonomic and self-report reactivity to pictures of mutilated bodies, after reading a text about the art of mimicking injuries in the movies. Participants that scored high in positive affect trait showed attenuated autonomic reactions to the mutilation pictures. Thus, high positive affect facilitated engagement in safety cues and modulated reflexive reactions of the brain's defense system.