Autonomic Patterns of Emotion across Multiple Contexts

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Virginia Tech

Research on the autonomic specificity of emotion has spanned several decades. Even though considerable evidence exists for supporting autonomic specificity for discrete emotion states (Kreibig, 2010), there is still an active debate, and conflicting explanations, for these findings (Quigley and Barrett, 2014). There have been several studies employing multivariate pattern classification analytic techniques and calls for those types of studies are still prevalent (Kragel and LaBar, 2014). Although many studies have explored the autonomic specificity of emotions, few have explored what effects the induction methods, themselves, have had in inducing the autonomic change. Autonomic specificity of induction methods might be a meaningful, and confounding, phenomenon in this literature. Based on this unknown variable, the current experiment was designed to see if methods for emotion elicitation could be meaningfully captured by these same pattern classification techniques. This was accomplished using three separate emotion-elicitation methods to elicit five separate emotions. A sample of 64 college-aged students watched film clips, read imagery scripts, and recalled personal memories for five discrete emotions. Using discriminant analysis, the evidence from the current study lent less support for autonomic specificity of emotion than past experiments, and lends some support for providing future exploration into autonomic change that is related to methods for induction. Potential confounds and task fatigue effects are discussed.

autonomic specificity, context, method, task influences, emotion