Emotional Reactions to News Events1


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    This study was performed when both authors were at Columbia University. Thanks are due Myron Wish, Robert M. Krauss, Stanley Schachter, Nancy R. Grunberg, Sheryle W. Alagna, Andrew Baum, and David S. Krantz for their comments on drafts of this paper. The authors also thank the members of the Park West Camera Club, New York City, for their help in Study 2.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Neil E. Grunberg, Department of Medical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814.


This study was designed to determine (a) what dimensions underlie emotional reactions to news events, (b) whether these dimensions are independent, (c) whether reactions to major news events are similar for different groups of people, and (d) whether a simple method could be developed for evaluating emotional reactions to news events. Subjects rated the similarity of their emotional reactions to 20 page-one newspaper stories in a paired-comparison task. The data were multidimensionally scaled using the KYST computer program. Two dimensions emerged that accounted for 89% of the judgment variance: pleasure/displeasure and degree of arousal. Interpretation of these dimensions was verified using a semantic differential task. The two dimensions were not independent. They were related by a U-shaped function: News events farther from evaluative neutrality were judged more arousing. A second study with 40 news events and a different subject population replicated these findings. Subjects' ratings of news events on three scales (happy, important, and exciting) were sufficient to recover the KYST dimensions. The theoretical and practical implications of these. results are discussed.