The activity of basic motivational systems is reflected in emotional responses to arousing stimuli, such as natural pictures. The manipulation of picture properties such as size or detail allows for investigation into the extent to which separate emotional reactions are similarly modulated by perceptual changes, or, rather, may subserve different functions. Pursuing this line of research, the present study examined the effects of two types of perceptual degradation, namely picture size reduction and blurring, on emotional responses. Both manipulations reduced picture relevance and dampened affective modulation of skin conductance, possibly because of a reduced action preparation in response to degraded or remote pictures. However, the affective modulation of the startle reflex did not vary with picture degradation, suggesting that the identification of these degraded affective cues activated the neural circuits mediating appetitive or defensive motivation
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