BIAS; The embodiment of threat: From biological stimuli to artwork

Project Summary

This project is hosted by: Warburg Institute

Research interests:
Cultural memory, Culture, English Literature, Neuroscience, Philosophy
Africa, Africa, Asia, Asia, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
Project period:
09-Jan-2016 - 31-Aug-2019
Project categories:
Research project
Project summary:

 We will investigate how states of bodily arousal, e.g. accelerating heart, influence the way we perceive different sets of images. For this, we will monitor participants’ heartbeats with a standard non-invasive electrocardiogram (ECG) and employ a novel technique of stimuli presentation, consisting in presenting stimuli at different phases of the cardiac cycle, i.e. synchronized with a heartbeat or between heartbeats. Previous research demonstrated that pictures of fearful faces presented during a heartbeat are perceived to be more intense than pictures presented between heartbeats. This approach allows us to study the influence of heartbeats on threat perception without inducing states of arousal or anxiety in the participant. In a series of studies, we aim to explore how this mechanism impacts the perception of pictures conveying different types of threat-related signals. Participants will provide subjective ratings of artistic paintings/photographs depicting threatening situations or pictures from standardized sets of biologically prepared stimuli (e.g. spiders, fearful faces). While threat-related pictures are typically judged to be aversive and of negative valence this is not necessarily true when threat displays are perceived in the context of artistic work. These studies will allow exploring how the feedback we receive from our bodies shapes our appreciation of artwork.

Management Details

Lead researcher & project contact:

Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Mr David Freedberg Director Warburg Institute SAS



Funder Grant type Award
Nomis Foundation