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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Sliding into happiness: A new tool for measuring affective responses to words

Amy B Warriner, David I Shore, Louis A Schmidt, and Constance L Imbault (2017)

Sliding into happiness: A new tool for measuring affective responses to words

Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71:71-88.

Reliable measurement of affective responses is critical for research into human emotion. Affective evaluation of words is most commonly gauged on multiple dimensions—including valence (positivity) and arousal—using a rating scale. Despite its popularity, this scale is open to criticism: It generates ordinal data that is often misinterpreted as interval, it does not provide the fine resolution that is essential by recent theoretical accounts of emotion, and its extremes may not be properly calibrated. In 5 experiments, the authors introduce a new slider tool for affective evaluation of words on a continuous, well-calibrated and high-resolution scale. In Experiment 1, participants were shown a word and asked to move a manikin representing themselves closer to or farther away from the word. The manikin’s distance from the word strongly correlated with the word’s valence. In Experiment 2, individual differences in shyness and sociability elicited reliable differences in distance from the words. Experiment 3 validated the results of Experiments 1 and 2 using a demographically more diverse population of responders. Finally, Experiment 4 (along with Experiment 2) suggested that task demand is not a potential cause for scale recalibration. In Experiment 5, men and women placed a manikin closer or farther from words that showed sex differences in valence, highlighting the sensitivity of this measure to group differences. These findings shed a new light on interactions among affect, language, and individual differences, and demonstrate the utility of a new tool for measuring word affect.

arousal, sex differences, valence