Chapter 6: Measuring and Manipulating Emotions

Measuring Emotions

This section focuses on the ways that researchers measure emotions and elicit emotions in the laboratory.  The first half of the chapter will focus on ways that researchers measure participants’ emotional experiences, such as through self-report surveys or facial expression coding.  The second half of the chapter will discuss the methods researchers use to manipulate emotions, such as by using scenarios or photos.  As we discuss each method, identify the advantages and disadvantages of each method.  The third section of this chapter focuses on the importance of emotion coherence when manipulating and measuring emotions.


Self-Report Measures

Self-report surveys can be used to measure many of the emotion components. Some self-report scales measure subjective feelings, such as the extent to which you feel anger or sadness. Self-report surveys could also measure conscious cognitive appraisals. For instance, “did you or someone else cause this event?” One self-report scale is the PANAS (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), which measures PA and NA (see prior chapter). The Current Mood Questionnaire (CMQ; Feldman, Barrett & Russell, 1998) measures the activation and valence dimensions from Russell’s (1981) circumplex model. One disadvantage to these self-report scales is that participants must be able to read and introspect about their emotional states. The Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM; Bradley & Lang, 1994) was developed to solve this major criticism of common self-report scales. The SAM measures valence, arousal, and a third dominance dimension with facial expressions in clip art (See Figure 1). Thus, this self-report measure is language-free and can be completed by children who cannot yet read. A criticism of all self-report measures is that researchers are assuming participants have introspective access to understand their emotions accurately. In addition, sometimes people mislabel their emotion, as Schachter and Singer first discussed.

Figure 1
The Self-Assessment Manikin

This photo depicts the Self-Assessment Manikin scale mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Two rows of manikins are depicted, one row measuring valence via facial expressions and the other row measuring arousal.
Reproduced from “The International Affective Picture System (IAPS) in the study of emotion and attention,” by M.M. Bradley, and P.J. Lang, 2007, In J.A. Coan & J.J.B. Allen’s Handbook of emotion elicitation and assessment, p. 31. Copyright 2007 by Oxford University Press.


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