Spending one's time: The hedonic principle in ad Libitum viewing of pictures

Assaf Kron, Maryna Pilkiw, Ariel Goldstein, Daniel H. Lee, Katherine Gardhouse, Adam K. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hedonic principle maintains that humans strive to maximize pleasant feelings and avoid unpleasant feelings. Surprisingly, and contrary to hedonic logic, previous experiments have demonstrated a relationship between picture viewing time and arousal (activation) but not with valence (pleasure vs. displeasure), suggesting that arousal rather than the hedonic principle accounts for how individuals choose to spend their time. In 2 experiments we investigated the arousal and hedonic principles underlying viewing time behavior while controlling for familiarity with stimuli, picture complexity, and demand characteristics. Under ad libitum conditions of picture viewing, we found strong relationships between viewing time, valence, and facial corrugator electomyographic (EMG) activity with familiar but not novel pictures. Viewing time of novel stimuli was largely associated with arousal and visual complexity. We conclude that only after initial information about the stimulus is gathered, where we choose to spend our time is guided by the hedonic principle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1101
Number of pages15
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Approach
  • Arousal
  • Avoidance
  • Emotion
  • Valence
  • Viewing time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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