Chapter 7: Physiological Measures of Emotion

Problems with Measures of ANS Activity

When measuring ANS activity during emotional events, some problems could easily arise.  Below, are four common problems that researchers must consider when developing a physiological study of emotions and possible solutions to these problems.


Problem #1: ANS activity is not a pure measure of emotion.  Other bodily processes such as digestion and homeostasis occur with emotional experiences and could influence activity. Using baseline measures and several trials, will ensure the data collected is accurate.  Additionally, adding a within-subjects neutral condition will allow comparison between participants’ elicited emotions and their neutral states.


Problem #2: Most measures do not differentiate between SNS and PNS changes.  Thus, many researchers take several measures simultaneously to tweeze apart SNS and PNS changes.  In addition, measures of skin conductance and HRV should be used.


Problem #3: Individual differences in responses.  Participants will show different magnitude of changes across physiology measures. Using baseline measures allows researchers to determine the amount of change that occurred.


Problem #4: Intrusiveness of the measures like headcaps and sensors could confound the experimental and baseline measure.  One solution to this problem is to conduct several trials and baselines.  Another solution would be to use less intrusive measures, when possible.


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Psychology of Human Emotion. by Michelle Yarwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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