Physiological responses associated with cultural attachment

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Abstract

Cultural attachment (CA) suggests that cultural symbols can function as attachment figures, in a similar way to prototypical maternal attachment figures. In order to further understand the psychophysiological mechanisms of CA, we examine whether cultural symbols regulate peripheral physiological indicators of arousal in response to symbolic threats. We supraliminally expose participants to neutral or threatening stimuli, followed by the subliminal presentation of CA and control images, while recording their Skin Conductance Responses (SCR). In tandem with previous work, threat increased SCR when the subliminal image was a control. However, the subliminal presence of a cultural symbol reduced this typically high SCR to threat, potentially suggesting that the threat-related arousal was mitigated. Importantly, metrics related to the way an individual is related to the environment, i.e. the need for cognitive closure, affected physiological responses towards threat and cultural images. Overall, the present study sets the basis for potential emotional mechanisms that could explain how cultural symbols can act as extensions of the prototypical attachment figures and confer the sense of security in the face of threat.

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