Scientific article
Open access

Basic Instinct Undressed: Early Spatiotemporal Processing for Primary Sexual Characteristics

Published inPloS one, vol. 8, no. 7, e69726
Publication date2013

This study investigates the spatiotemporal dynamics associated with conscious and non-conscious processing of naked and dressed human bodies. To this effect, stimuli of naked men and women with visible primary sexual characteristics, as well as dressed bodies, were presented to 20 heterosexual male and female participants while acquiring high resolution EEG data. The stimuli were either consciously detectable (supraliminal presentations) or were rendered non-conscious through backward masking (subliminal presentations). The N1 event-related potential component was significantly enhanced in participants when they viewed naked compared to dressed bodies under supraliminal viewing conditions. More importantly, naked bodies of the opposite sex produced a significantly greater N1 component compared to dressed bodies during subliminal presentations, when participants were not aware of the stimulus presented. A source localization algorithm computed on the N1 showed that the response for naked bodies in the supraliminal viewing condition was stronger in body processing areas, primary visual areas and additional structures related to emotion processing. By contrast, in the subliminal viewing condition, only visual and body processing areas were found to be activated. These results suggest that naked bodies and primary sexual characteristics are processed early in time (i.e., <200 ms) and activate key brain structures even when they are not consciously detected. It appears that, similarly to what has been reported for emotional faces, sexual features benefit from automatic and rapid processing, most likely due to their high relevance for the individual and their importance for the species in terms of reproductive success.

  • Awareness
  • EEG
  • Sex
  • Subliminal
  • Affect
Citation (ISO format)
LEGRAND, Lore et al. Basic Instinct Undressed: Early Spatiotemporal Processing for Primary Sexual Characteristics. In: PloS one, 2013, vol. 8, n° 7, p. e69726. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069726
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1932-6203

Technical informations

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