Methods For Measuring Emotion

As mentioned earlier, the components of emotion can be conveniently categorized into three broad, only somewhat overlapping, output systems (after Lang, 1979): (a) language, which includes evalua tive self-reports of experience, modifications of speech patterns by emotions, and expressive communications; (b) behavior, which includes overt acts and functional behavior sequences, such as flight or fight, approach, and threat behavior, as well as the modulation of other behaviors by emotion; and (c) physiology, which includes central and peripheral nervous system changes that support emotional behavior or prepare the person for responding, as well as somatic expressive changes and hormonal changes that coordinate the discharge and replacement of energy stores. As presented by Bradley and Lang (2000), these three output systems provide a three-dimensional framework for considering measures of emotion. We present this framework in the form of a data box (Cattell, 1988; Larsen, 1989).

Emotions can be thought of as events that produce variability along these three main dimensions. Each dimension of this framework refers to a category of variables that have been theoretically and empirically related to emotion. A theoretical challenge in the emotion area is to sort out this response diversity by explaining when response patterns across the three dimensions will be integrated and when they will be discordant. Until then, researchers would be well advised to include, at the least, measures from each of the three dimensions.

We turn now to a brief review of various measures that make up each of the three dimensions. Our intent is to provide a sampling of the major methods that have been developed in the three broad areas of emotion output. We will not provide an exhaustive review of what is known about each measure, nor is our review intended to be exhaustive within each type of measurement method. Rather, our intent is to provide examples of specific methods, describe a few strengths and weakness of each, and provide references for interested readers to pursue for further details.

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