Are valence and arousal separable in emotional experience?

Assaf A. Kron, Maryna Pilkiw, Jasmin Banaei, Ariel Goldstein, Adam Keith Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The bipolar valence-arousal model of conscious experience of emotions is prominent in emotion research. In this work, we examine the validity of this model in the context of feelings elicited by visual stimuli. In particular, we examine whether arousal has a unique contribution over bivariate valence (separate measures for pleasure and displeasure) in explaining physiological arousal (electrodermal activity, EDA) and self-reported feelings at the level of item-specific responses across and within individuals. Our results suggest that self-reports of arousal have neither an advantage in predicting EDA nor make a unique contribution when valence is present in the model. Acceptance of the null hypothesis was confirmed with the use of the Bayesian information criterion. Arousal also showed no advantage over valence in predicting global feelings, but demonstrated a small unique component (1.5% to 4% of variance explained). These results have practical implications for both experimental design in the study of emotions and the underlying bases of their conscious experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Arousal
  • EDA
  • Models of emotions
  • Self reports
  • Valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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