Looking at pictures: Affective, facial, visceral, and behavioral reactions


  • This work was supported in part by National Institute of Mental Health grants MH37757, MH41950, and MH43975 and by grant AG09779 from the National Institute of Aging to Peter J. Lang.

  • We thank Bruce Cuthbert and Chris Patrick for their help in this research and Lois Putnam and other reviewers for their useful suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. Alfons Hamm is currently at the University of Giessen, Germany.

Address requests for reprints to: Peter J. Lang, Box 100165 H.S.C., Department of Clinical & Health Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.


Colored photographic pictures that varied widely across the affective dimensions of valence (pleasant-unpleasant) and arousal (excited-calm) were each viewed for a 6-s period while facial electromyographic (zygomatic and corrugator muscle activity) and visceral (heart rate and skin conductance) reactions were measured. Judgments relating to pleasure, arousal, interest, and emotional state were measured, as was choice viewing time. Significant covariation was obtained between (a) facial expression and affective valence judgments and (b) skin conductance magnitude and arousal ratings. Interest ratings and viewing time were also associated with arousal. Although differences due to the subject's gender and cognitive style were obtained, affective responses were largely independent of the personality factors investigated. Response specificity, particularly facial expressiveness, supported the view that specific affects have unique patterns of reactivity. The consistency of the dimensional relationships between evaluative judgments (i.e., pleasure and arousal) and physiological response, however, emphasizes that emotion is fundamentally organized by these motivational parameters.