Sunday, December 2, 2007

"Measure That Emotion"

(Updated April 23, 2015)

In many areas of psychology, attitudes and behavior are assessed by self-report questionnaires. Either in paper/pencil format or, increasingly, via the Internet, participants are asked to respond on a scale from 1 to 5 (or 1 to 7, or 1 to 10, etc.) as to how much they agree with or like some stimulus object or how frequently they engage in some behavior. Participants may, of course, misreport their answers, due either to deliberate falsification or lack of access to inner states.

Naturally, researchers have tried coming up with subtle ways to probe attitudes and behaviors, in order to corroborate or circumvent self-report measurements. The field of emotion/affect research has a long history of working with physiological recording techniques for this purpose.

Today's song, "Measure That Emotion," thus delves into the matter of self-report vs. physiological assessment of people's feelings. Below the song lyrics, I've listed several sources for interested readers to pursue the topic in greater detail.

Jeff Larsen, a who moved from Texas Tech to the University of Tennesseefaculty colleague of mine (he's in psychology and I'm in human development and family studies) studied during his Ohio State graduate school years with prominent psychophysiologist John Cacioppo (now at University of Chicago) and has continued to conduct innovative studies on emotion. As I write, Jeff and his Texas Tech students are designing and implementing psychophysiological affect studies, and I dedicate this song to Jeff...


Measure That Emotion
Lyrics by Alan Reifman
(May be sung to the tune of “I Second That Emotion,” Robinson/Cleveland)

How do you handle, affect measurement?
What should you do, for your experiment?
Should you invest in, phys-i-ol-o-gy?
Expensive, but probes feelings, with subtlety,

Surveys you can give en masse,
The Affect Grid or the PANAS,

Oh, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever your devotion,
Measure that emotion,

Said, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever fits your notion,
Measure that emotion,

Physio measures come in several forms,
Mini-electrical and blood-flow storms,
Should you record the facial EMG?
What does it have for its validity?

Moods, people can self-report,
But respondents, may distort,

Oh, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever your devotion,
Measure that emotion,

Said, self-report or “physio,”
Whatever fits your notion,
Measure that emotion...


Further Reading

Brian Lickel has a superb online PowerPoint presentation on psychophysiological assessment, entitled “Detecting and Indexing Emotion.” Also, the Society for Psychophysiological Research website has a Teaching Resources component.

Beyond the above web links, several articles -- both contemporary and historical -- deal with assessing emotions:

Cacioppo, J. T., Gardner, W. L., & Berntson, G. G. (1997). Beyond bipolar conceptualizations and measures: The case of attitudes and evaluative space. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 3-25.

Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., Losch, M. E., & Crites, S. L. (1994). Psychophysiological approaches to attitudes: Detecting affective dispositions when people won't say, can't say, or don't even know. In S. Shavitt & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Persuasion: Psychological insights and perspectives (pp. 43-69). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Carroll, J.M., Yik, M., Russell, J.A., & Barrett, L.F. (1999). On the psychometric principles of affect. Review of General Psychology, 3, 14-22.

Collins, B. E., Ellsworth, P. C., & Helmreich, R. L. (1967). Correlations between pupil size and the semantic differential: An experimental paradigm and pilot study. Psychonomic Science, 9, 627-628.

[Barry Collins is the first professor from whom I ever took a psychology course, the introductory undergraduate class, Psych 10, at UCLA, whereas Phoebe Ellsworth was one of my mentors in graduate school at the University of Michigan, in psychology and law.]

Ekman, P., Levenson, R. W., & Friesen, W. V. (1983). Autonomic nervous system activity distinguishes among emotions. Science, 221, 1208-1210.

Guglielmi, R.S. (1999). Psychophysiological assessment of prejudice: Past research, current status, and future directions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 123-157.

Larsen, J.T., Norris, C.J., McGraw, A.P., Hawkley, L.C., & Cacioppo, J.T. (in press). The evaluative space grid: A single-item measure of positivity and negativity. Cognition & Emotion2009;23:453–480.

Mauss, I. B, & Robinson, M. D. (2009). Measures of emotion: A review. Cognition & Emotion, 23, 209–237.

Russell, J.A., Weiss, A., & Mendelsohn, G.A. (1989). Affect Grid: A single-item scale of pleasure and arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 493-502.

Scherer, K.R. (2005) What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information, 44, 695-729.

Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of Positive and Negative Affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070.

Watson, D., & Vaidya, J. (2013). Mood measurement: Current status and future directions. In J. A. Schinka & W. Velicer (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychology. Volume 2: Research Methods in psychology (2nd Ed.) (pp. 369-394). New York: Wiley.