Spring Break or Heart Break? Extending Valence Bias to Emotional Words

Nicholas R. Harp, Catherine C. Brown, Maital Neta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Ambiguous stimuli are useful for assessing emotional bias. For example, surprised faces could convey a positive or negative meaning, and the degree to which an individual interprets these expressions as positive or negative represents their “valence bias.” Currently, the most well-validated ambiguous stimuli for assessing valence bias include nonverbal signals (faces and scenes), overlooking an inherent ambiguity in verbal signals. This study identified 32 words with dual-valence ambiguity (i.e., relatively high intersubject variability in valence ratings and relatively slow response times) and length-matched clearly valenced words (16 positive, 16 negative). Preregistered analyses demonstrated that the words-based valence bias correlated with the bias for faces, rs(213) =.27, p <.001, and scenes, rs(204) =.46, p <.001. That is, the same people who interpret ambiguous faces/scenes as positive also interpret ambiguous words as positive. These findings provide a novel tool for measuring valence bias and greater generalizability, resulting in a more robust measure of this bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1392-1401
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • ambiguity
  • emotion
  • language
  • nonverbal
  • valence bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Spring Break or Heart Break? Extending Valence Bias to Emotional Words'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this