Many models of emotion assume that the emotional response is preceded by an assessment of a stimulus' relevance to the perceiver's goals. Although widely assumed, experimentally controlling and, hence, empirically testing the effect of a stimulus' relevance on the emotional response has proven challenging. In this study, we used stimuli with high ecological validity and manipulated their relevance while holding constant the perceptual features of the stimuli. In the experiment, participants were given the result of their Israeli Psychometric Entrance Test (PET). The PET score is highly relevant to most participants, as, at the time of the experiment, it is the only unknown about whether they shall be admitted to their major of choice at the university. Relevance of the information was experimentally controlled both binarily by manipulating whether the presented score is the participant's or belongs to another unfamiliar participant and parametrically by manipulating the probability that a presented score is their actual PET score. We found a substantial effect for manipulated relevance on self-report, electrodermal activity, and heart rate. The results provide evidence that information about a stimulus' relevance modulates the emotional response to it.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.
- appraisal, emotion, relevance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Psychology