Semantic and affective manifestations of ambi (valence)

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People sometimes report both pleasant and unpleasant feelings when presented with affective stimuli. However, what is reported as “mixed emotions” might reflect semantic knowledge about the stimulus (Russell, J. A. (2017). Mixed emotions viewed from the psychological constructionist perspective. Emotion Review, 9(2), 111–117). The following research examines to what degree self-reported mixed emotions represent actual feelings compared to knowledge about the stimulus. In a series of three experiments, participants reported either their feelings or their knowledge in response to affective stimuli. In Experiment 1, we sampled the entire IAPS pictorial space and examined the proportion of mixed emotion ratings using feelings-focused and knowledge-focused self-reports. We found a higher degree of mixed emotions under knowledge-focused than feelings-focused self-reports. In Experiment 2, we used a priori selected pictures to elicit mixed emotions. The proportion of mixed emotions was again higher under knowledge-focused instructions. In Experiment 3, we used movie clips that were previously used to elicit mixed emotions. In contrast to Experiments 1 and 2, there was no difference between feelings-focused and knowledge-focused self-reports. The results suggest a strong semantic component and a weak experiential component of self-reports in the case of pictorial stimuli. However, ambivalent movie clips elicited a stronger experiential component, thus supporting the existence of mixed emotions at the level of feelings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1356-1369
Number of pages14
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number7
StatePublished - 3 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Mixed emotions
  • ambivalence
  • valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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