Lois Putnam

Lois Putnam

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1975

General Area of Research

Psychophysiology of attention and emotion and their development

Current Research

How do children and adults deploy their attention over time when anticipating a stimulus to which they must respond? Do their physiological responses during the anticipatory interval illuminate the attentional process? In addition to the timing of attention, we would like to understand its selectivity or focus. Can we probe the anticipatory interval with task-irrelevant noise bursts and, by measuring the startle blink to such probes, discover something about the extent and direction of anticipatory attention? What if our experimental stimuli are not emotionally neutral ones but rather positively- or negatively-tinged sounds or sights? When we look at a picture, for instance, how does our reported feeling of pleasure/displeasure or calm/excited relate to the physiological and facial responses it evokes? And how well do our facial responses communicate these two affective dimensions to others?

I've addressed questions such as these in psychophysiological studies of attention and emotion and their development. Psychophysiological methods allow us to explore the physiological responses accompanying psychological processes even in the absence of overt behavior. They are relatively nonintrusive, and they afford a high degree of temporal resolution, making them powerful tools for exploring the unfolding of psychological processes across milleseconds or seconds. My research has examined interrelationships among autonomic and central nervous system responses and voluntary and involuntary behavioral responses, including heart rate responses, skin conductance change, event-related brain potentials, startle eyeblink, and facial expression. Fundamentally, I am interested in how responses of the body influence and illuminate core affective and attentional processes, and how these processes change over the course of human development.

Relevant Publications

Putnam, L. & Vanman, E. J. (1999). Long lead interval startle modification. In M. E. Dawson, A. M. Schell, & A. H. Boehmelt (Eds.), Startle modification: Implications for neuroscience, cognitive science, and clinical science.72-92. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Putnam, L. E. (1990). Great expectations: Anticipatory responses of the heart and brain. Chap. 8 in J. W. Rohrbaugh, R. Parasuraman, & R. Johnson, Jr. (Eds.), Event-related brain potentials: Basic issues and applications. New York: Oxford University Press.

Putnam, L. E., & Roth, W. T. (1990). Effects of stimulus repetition, duration, and rise time on startle blink and automatically elicited P300. Psychophysiology, 27, 275-297.

Winton, W.M., Putnam, L.E., & Krauss, R.M. (1984). Facial and autonomic manifestations of the dimensional structure of emotion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology20, 195-216.

Courses Taught

Selected Publications

Effects of stimulus repetition, duration, and rise time on startle blink and automatically elicited P300.

Facial and autonomic manifestations of the dimensional structure of emotion.