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How Does It “Feel”? A Signal Detection Approach to

Feeling Generation
Anat Karmon-Presser, Gal Sheppes, and Nachshon Meiran
Online First Publication, April 13, 2017.

Karmon-Presser, A., Sheppes, G., & Meiran, N. (2017, April 13). How Does It “Feel”? A Signal
Detection Approach to Feeling Generation. Emotion. Advance online publication.
Emotion © 2017 American Psychological Association
2017, Vol. 1, No. 999, 000 1528-3542/17/$12.00

How Does It “Feel”? A Signal Detection Approach to Feeling Generation

Anat Karmon-Presser Gal Sheppes

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Tel-Aviv University

Nachshon Meiran
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Feeling, or the subjective emotional experience, is a fundamental element of the emotional reaction, yet
past attempts to understand the mechanisms of feeling generation remain limited. The current study
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

presents a signal detection theory (SDT) conceptualization of feeling generation. Accordingly, feeling,
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like other sensations, reflects an outcome of an inner decision regarding the emotional evidence, and,
therefore, can be evaluated via 2 processes: evidence differentiation (d=)—the ability to emotionally
differentiate between external stimuli, given the essentially noisy evidence—and criterion (c)—the report
threshold, or amount of evidence needed to have an intense reportable feeling. According to the model,
feelings can be disproportionally intense (false alarms; e.g., emotional overreaction) or disproportionally
weak (misses; e.g., failing to detect danger), with the criterion controlling the relative proportion of these
“errors.” Results from a novel task indicate that our conceptualization provides a suitable model for
valence (pleasant– unpleasant) feeling generation, as reflected in superior model fit relative to plausible
alternative models, nonsignificant lack of fit, and by successful experimental tests of a novel prediction
regarding contextual influences and related uncertainty. Additional evidence for the external validity of
the model shows that SDT parameters, especially the criterion, were meaningfully correlated with
relevant emotion regulation and affective style constructs. Implications for the understanding of feeling
generation, in general, and in psychopathology, in particular, are discussed.

Keywords: feeling, subjective emotional experience, signal-detection, emotion regulation, emotion

regulation choice

Feelings color our experience, and it is hard to overstate their Feeling: The Conscious Experience of Emotion
importance in adaptive functioning (Frijda, 2005; Lambie & Mar-
cel, 2002). Yet, surprisingly little is known about the underlying Emotions include several components, such as attentional de-
mechanisms that allow feelings to come into being (Nielsen & ployment, cognitive appraisal, action tendencies, facial and bodily
Kaszniak, 2007). Accordingly, our main goal was to answer the expressions, autonomic responses, and subjective conscious feel-
question how emotional triggers (Gray & Watson, 2001) lead to ings (e.g., Scherer, 2001). Feelings are considered to contribute to
feelings generation. Our model, based on signal detection theory adaptive functioning and general well-being (e.g., Ekman & Da-
(SDT; Macmillan & Creelman, 2004) provides the first explicit vidson, 1994; Lambie & Marcel, 2002), attention focusing, and
quantitative account of feeling generation. Aside from examining cuing of personal relevance (Ekman & Davidson, 1994), the ability
the fit of our model, we also provide initial indications that the to understand the experiences of others and to empathize (Lambie
model’s parameters are meaningfully related to the management of & Marcel, 2002), decision making (e.g., Suri, Sheppes, & Gross,
one’s emotional life. In the next few sections, we review relevant 2013), and social support seeking and negative mood repair (Lis-
literature and present both the SDT model as well as our paradigm. chetzke, Cuccodoro, Gauger, Todeschini, & Eid, 2005).
In the present investigation, we decided to focus on feelings of
negative valence, while acknowledging the fact that the status of
this dimension as a core dimension is debatable. Specifically, the
Anat Karmon-Presser, Department of Psychology and Zlotowski Center dimensional approach separates between the two core dimensions
for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Gal Sheppes, of valence and arousal (e.g., Barrett, 2006a; Duncan & Barrett,
School of Psychological Sciences, Tel-Aviv University; Nachshon Meiran, 2007; Pessoa, 2008), with valence representing the hedonic value
Department of Psychology and Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben- of the trigger. In contrast, the discrete emotions approach refers to
Gurion University of the Negev. emotional states, such as happiness, anger, and fear, as discrete
We thank Danielle Harpaz, Neta Weitzman, and Noa Eshet for lab states (e.g., Ekman & Cordaro, 2011; Izard, 2011; Panksepp &
assistance and Gadi Lahav and Nitzan Edelman for MatLab assistance.
Watt, 2011), distinct from one another and represented by unique
This research was supported by grant number 381/15 to the last author
from the Israel Science Foundation.
characteristics (e.g., facial expression, response tendencies, etc.;
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Anat see Barrett, 2006a, for criticism). We chose to begin the inquiry by
Karmon-Presser, Department of Psychology, Ben-Gurion University of the focusing on negative valence because of the wide acceptability of
Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel. E-mail: this dimension either as a primitive or as a consequent of discrete


feelings. Moreover, a recent meta-analysis (Lench, Flores, & In Figure 2, the wave on the left side of the figure describes the
Bench, 2011) indicates that despite the fact that cognition, judg- fluctuating, momentary emotional evidence in the presence of a
ment, experience, behavior, and physiology discriminate between weak emotional trigger (e.g., Sharon thinking of the staff meeting).
discrete emotions, the discrimination is sharpest between positive Although the trigger is weak, the emotional evidence may some-
and negative emotions. times be weak and sometimes be strong. The wave on the right side
of the figure describes the emotional evidence, which increases by
a certain amount in the presence of a strong trigger (e.g., reading
Outline of the SDT Model the forecast concerning an upcoming recession). The difference
Think of Sharon, a middle-aged woman, who, as she does every between the mean intensities is the evidence differentiation. When
morning, drinks her coffee before leaving to work. When thinking the wave passes the report threshold, feelings, in the sense de-
of the anticipated long and tiring staff meeting, she feels somewhat scribed earlier, come to be.
gloomy. When reading in the newspaper about a forecast concern- This theory, thus, permits us to address two questions: How
ing a widespread recession, she feels terribly bad. Had it been on efficiently does the emotional evidence differentiate between trig-
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another day, however, it is possible that these forecasts would not gers of different intensities? And, what is the minimal amount of
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emotional evidence required to report an intense feeling? These are

have made her feel so bad. Our model explains why thinking of the
the same questions asked in signal detection theory (Macmillan &
staff meeting elicited a mild negative feeling, whereas reading the
Creelman, 2004), when describing sensation of physical stimuli.
newspaper elicited an intense negative feeling and why the same
news can produce different reactions on different occasions. Our
model postulates that multiple sources of evidence are integrated SDT
when feelings are generated, including cognitions (e.g., “my
daughter may lose her job”), physiological reactions, such as felt SDT originally described the generation of sensation reports by
heartbeat, or jitteriness, and so forth. Importantly, these sources are assuming that triggers generate noisy inner sensations, which need
not only influenced by the emotion trigger (e.g., reading that to exceed a certain threshold to be reported. It refers to two types
recession is anticipated), but also by past or enduring effects. For of experiments: detection and discrimination. In detection exper-
example, the feelings that arise when reading the newspaper may iments, participants need to detect a very weak stimulus, and the
be influenced by previous events, such as just having thought of amount of sensation that was generated by the stimulus is “sensi-
the anticipated long and tiring staff meeting, but also by more tivity” (d=). In discrimination experiments (see Figure 3), on which
purely physiological factors such as just having drank coffee. we focus, participants are asked to discriminate between two
In our conceptualization, emotional evidence is the integration stimuli that are highly similar to one another, and d= represents the
of evidence from all of the aforementioned sources (see Figure 1). incremental sensation in the stronger stimulus relative to the
Here, we studied the ability to accumulate (inner) emotion evi- weaker stimulus. In some respects, the detection experiment is a
dence that will discriminate between (outer) triggers of different special case of the discrimination case (see Discussion section for
intensities (the thought of the staff meeting vs. the newspaper an elaboration), and, partly for that reason, we decided to study
article in Sharon’s example). We termed the difference in emotion discrimination.
evidence between the two types of triggers, emotional evidence Another aspect concerns the minimal amount of inner sensation
differentiation (henceforth, evidence differentiation). Yet, the emo- that is required for responding (criterion; c), which, in discrimi-
nation experiments, refers to reporting having an intense sensa-
tional evidence is not conscious feeling.1 For it to become feeling,
tion.2 Given the noise in the system, not all reports of intense
it must pass the report threshold.
sensation are reactions to the strong stimulus (“hits”), and the
We consider feelings to be the awareness of the emotional
system produces errors seen in intense sensations generated by the
evidence. However, in research, feelings are measured (thus, op-
weak stimulus (“false alarms”), or mild sensations generated in
erationalized) with a report task. Here, we refer to report broadly,
reaction to the strong stimulus (“misses”). Importantly, with a
as any observable intentional broadcasting of the emotional state,
given level of (less than perfect) sensitivity, these errors are
in which a person admits the existence of feeling to others and/or
to oneself. This task may be marking emotion intensity on a scale,
but may also be answering the question, “How do you feel?” in a 1
Consciousness researchers differentiate between phenomenal con-
conversation or in one’s thoughts. The full process of feeling sciousness and access consciousness (e.g., Block, 2005). Phenomenal
generation is depicted schematically in Figure 1. Schematic dem- consciousness is the mere experience of something, such as “what differs
between the experiences of red and green” (Block, 2005, p. 46). Access
onstration of the concepts of “emotional evidence differentiation” conscious is “content information about which is ‘broadcast’ in the global
and “report threshold” are depicted in Figure 2. workspace” (e.g., reported in some manner; Block, 2005, p. 46). Our theory
Figure 1 presents the unfolding of feeling generation, in which describes only access consciousness, which, according to Baumeister and
an emotional trigger in the outer world (a) leads to an inner Masicampo (2010), “enables human beings to coordinate with their social
and cultural environment” (p. 947). In other words, according to our
summation of emotional evidence, based on components of emo- theory, people “feel” when they intentionally broadcast their emotional
tion such as cognitive appraisal, body sensations, action tenden- state to others or to themselves. Such broadcasting may include smiling to
cies, and so forth, only some of which are labeled in the figure; (b) a friend, but also providing feeling report in an experiment.
when the integrated evidence crosses a certain threshold, it is
Many researchers choose to index the criterion using ␤, the signal-to-
noise likelihood ratio, instead of c. Despite this convention, we chose c
translated into a conscious reportable feeling; and, (c) the model because its definition is orthogonal to that of d=, given that the two latent
presented in the current study focuses on the transformation de- distributions have equal-variance (MacMillan & Creelman, 2004), and is
picted within the dashed rectangle in Panel C. nearly orthogonal if the equal variance assumption is not grossly violated.

A Emoonal trigger


B Cognive Body Acon

appraisals sensaons tendencies

Emoonal evidence
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Figure 1. Schematic presentation of the feeling generation process, in which an external emotional trigger is
translated into feelings.

unavoidable, and the only thing that can be controlled is their Affective Pictures System (NAPS; Marchewka, Żurawski, Jed-
relative proportion. The theory treats sensitivity and criterion as noróg, & Grabowska, 2014) and were asked to report their current
latent variables that are inferred from the observed hit and false feeling. We selected the pictures in such a way that they belonged
alarm rates. to two narrow and close categories, in terms of their normative
An SDT model for feeling generation. In the model, applied negative valence (see Figure 5b), although the participants were
here to a discrimination experiment, feeling generation is de- not informed of this. Hits (reporting an intense negative feeling in
scribed in a manner analogous to how SDT describes the genera- reaction to a strong stimulus) and false alarms (an intense feeling
tion of sensory experiences, via two indices: “evidence differen- in response to a weak stimulus) were defined in relation to the
tiation,” the equivalent of d= (“sensitivity” in SDT), and “report category to which a stimulus belonged. Thus, our approach differs
threshold”, the equivalent of c (“criterion” in SDT). The SDT from experiments testing the sensation of physical attribute, in
“decision space,” in terms of feeling generation, is presented in which stimulus intensity is based on objective measures. We,
Figure 3 (describing a particular variant, called equal-variance instead, relied on an intersubjective agreement (the IAPS/NAPS
Gaussian model). Noise is inherent and, referring to the previous norms) as a replacement of objective physical measures. Justifi-
example, it may stem from mood, prior events, or having drank cations and theoretical foundations for this approach will be elab-
coffee. We elaborate on these issues in Experiment 2. Because of orated in the General Discussion section.
the noise, errors are inevitable, namely misses (e.g., failing to To ensure that participants reported their genuine feelings, we
detect danger) and false alarms (e.g., overreacting to a mild event).
took the following precautions. First, in our instructions, we em-
What can be controlled are the relative likelihoods of these errors,
phasized that participants should let their feelings arise and report
which is done by setting the report threshold.
these feelings. Moreover, the participants were not informed that
Our ideas continue a long line of theorizing. Like others, we
the pictures belonged to groups differing in valence, and, given the
view feelings as elaborations of more basic emotion components
slight difference between the groups, it was highly unlikely that
(e.g., Barrett, Mesquita, Ochsner, & Gross, 2007; Laird & Lacasse,
participants would realize that there are groups. Indeed, partici-
2014; Schachter & Singer, 1962; Thagard & Aubie, 2008). This is
pants did not mention any picture categories in the postexperimen-
also true for the parallel we make between emotions and sensation
of physical stimuli (Sokolov & Boucsein, 2000), and the idea that tal debriefing. Thus, unlike typical SDT experiments in which, on
inputs are integrated and must pass a threshold (Thagard & Aubie, each trial, participants are being told to discriminate between
2008). In line with these ideas, recent neuroimaging work shows stimuli in the outer world, the present paradigm required reporting
that the information that predicts feeling reports comes from feelings concerning a single, uncategorized emotion picture, and,
multiple brain regions (Chang, Gianaros, Manuck, Krishnan, & thus, further ensured that participants did not attempt to discrim-
Wager, 2015). inate between external stimuli and focused on their inner feelings.
Applying SDT to model feeling generation. Here, we cre- Furthermore, there was no apparent motivation to avoid reporting
ated a feeling generation SDT task that is analogous to a classic genuine feelings in the experiment.
SDT task, in which, for example, one’s subjective perception of Assessing model fit. One common denominator of all previ-
sound is evaluated by asking participants to report their subjective ous studies that have applied SDT to feelings (reviewed subse-
experience of sound intensity. In our feeling SDT task, participants quently) is that none of them tested the fit of SDT as a model of
were required to discriminate between different intensities in their feeling generation. In this sense, SDT was taken more as an
own feelings, generated in response to an external emotional analytic tool, rather than as a process model. In contrast, we take
trigger. SDT as a process model and assess its suitability to describe
In our paradigm, participants were presented with pictures from participants’ feeling generation. The SDT model fit was assessed
either the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang, at the level of an individual participant, and the fact that we used
Bradley, & Cuthbert, 1999) or with pictures from the Nencki a sample approaching 100 participants made it possible to also

Report Evidence
threshold differentiation

Weak trigger Strong trigger

Figure 2. Schematic presentation of feeling generation. Note that, given the noisiness of the emotional
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evidence, in some cases, the weak trigger invokes intense feelings and generates false alarms (instances in which
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the lower wave crosses the report threshold) and, in other instances, the strong trigger invokes mild feelings and
generates misses (instances in which the upper wave fails to cross the report threshold).

assess the proportion of participants whose feeling generation is Batchelder, 1988), in which the psychological process is described
well-described by the model. as a series of decisions. More specifically, the alternative models
We used a particular version of the SDT paradigm, the rating are inspired by the double high threshold model (DHT; Rouder,
procedure, in which participants make a graded response instead of 2016), in which, instead of a continuous level of emotional evi-
a dichotomous “mild/intense” response. This makes it possible to dence, it is assumed that a weak/strong trigger has a certain
assess model fit because each transition between grades represents probability of invoking a discrete mild/intense feeling. When dis-
a criterion (e.g., the transition between 1 and 2 represents one crimination fails to occur, one’s response is based on a guess. The
criterion, whereas the transition between 2 and 3 represents an- three variants of our modified DHT model (MDHT1 through
other criterion) and, thus, yields multiple data points, each repre- MDHT3) differ from each other in the rule applied for the decision
senting a P(hit)–P(false alarm) rate. of having a distinct intense/mild feeling (see Figure 4 for details).
In addition to testing the suitability of our Gaussian SDT model,
we compared it with viable, alternative models. Specifically, we
compared between five models. Two models were Gaussian SDT Prior Applications of SDT in Emotion Research
models: one assuming equal variance for the two emotional-
SDT has been used outside perception research, (e.g., Rotello,
evidence distributions and the other permitting differences be-
Macmillan, Hicks, & Hautus, 2006); (Trippas, Handley, & Verde,
tween these variances (SDT-E for equal, and SDT-UE for unequal,
2013), including in emotion research, (e.g., Ben-David, Chajut, &
respectively). The three alternative models were all variants of the
Algom, 2012; Pessoa & Padmala, 2005; Pizzagalli, Jahn, &
double high-threshold model. We chose this model since this is
O’Shea, 2005; Szczepanowski & Pessoa, 2007). Importantly, SDT
often the most viable alternative to SDT in other domains such as
was also used to assess inner sensations, such as the subjective
recognition memory (Kellen & Klauer, 2015). The three models
experience of pain (e.g., Grossberg & Grant, 1978; Irwin & White-
were expressed as multinomial processing tree models (Riefer &
head, 1991; Tan, Palmer, Martin, & Roche, 2007), which is highly
associated with emotion processes (Keefe, Lumley, Anderson,
Lynch, & Carson, 2001) and regarding feelings of optimism and
d’ pessimism (Bateson, 2016).
Weak emoonal signal Strong emoonal signal The earliest, and perhaps most relevant, study was reported by
Neufeld (1975), who began developing a conceptualization of
feelings that closely resembles the current one. Specifically, he
suggested that using denial while dealing with a threatening ex-
perience can be assessed in SDT terms of d=—sensitivity to dis-
turbing properties of the experience, and criterion, the tendency to
C verbally label a given stimulus event as stressful. He adopted a
unique methodology in which participants were required to make
two responses: In session participants reported their feelings when
Mild reportable feeling Intense reportable feeling first exposed to stressful stimuli. Then, their response to the same
stimuli in Session 2 was compared with their response from the
Emoonal evidence connuum
first report, which served as a personal norm.
Figure 3. Graphic depiction of the theoretical decision space in a feeling Another highly relevant study is by Nielsen and Kaszniak
discrimination experiment. It expresses d= (the distance between the dis- (2006), in which the authors investigated awareness of subtle
tributions) and c (the distance of the criterion from the center of the emotional feelings among meditators and nonmeditators, using
distribution on the left) in ␴-noise units. exploratory analysis of valence discrimination (compared with


Weak Stimulus Strong Stimulus

1 1
1.167 1.167

2 2
1.167 1.167

1.167 3 1.167 3
1.167 1.167
4 4
1.167 1.167

5 5

6 6
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Weak Stimulus Strong Stimulus

WgW Weak 1 - mode 1
1.167 1.167

Weak 2 2
1.167 1.167

1.167 Weak 3 1.167 3

1.167 1.167
4 Strong 3
1.167 1.167

5 1.167 Strong 2

6 Strong 1 - mode


Weak Stimulus Strong Stimulus

1 1
.33 1.167 1.167

WgW 2 1.167

1.167 3 1.167 3
1-WgW 1.167 1-SgS 1.167

4 4
1.167 1.167

SgS .33
5 1.167 5

6 6

Figure 4. Modified Double High Threshold Model 1 (MDHT1): According to this model, when the stimulus
is strong (right tree) the stimulus might be felt as intense with P ⫽ Strong given Strong, (from now on SgS),
leading to a rating of 6 on a 1 to 6 scale. If the strong stimulus fails to be felt as strong (with p ⫽ 1 – SgS),
random guessing between all 6 ratings takes place. A similar process takes place for the feeling of a weak
stimulus (see left tree). Modified Double High Threshold Model 2 (MDHT2): The middle scheme shows a
relaxed variant of the MDHT. When the stimulus is strong (right tree) the stimulus might be felt as intense (P ⫽
SgS), leading to a modal high rating (i.e., 4, 5, or 6) with the mode determined a posteriori based on the particular
participant’s data. If the strong stimulus fails to be felt as strong (with p ⫽ 1 – SgS), random guessing takes
place. A similar process takes place for the feeling of a weak stimulus (see left tree), with 1 to 3 as possible modal
ratings. MDHT3: the lower scheme shows another relaxed variant of the MDHT model, wherein when the
stimulus is strong (right tree), the stimulus might be felt as intense with P ⫽ SgS; but given an intense feeling,
the rating is randomly taken from 4, 5, and 6. If the strong stimulus fails to be felt as strong (with p ⫽ 1 – SgS),
random guessing takes place between all 6 ratings. A similar process takes place for the feeling of a weak
stimulus (see left tree).

a b
Arousal categories Valence categories
9 9

8 8

7 7
Valence norms

Arousal norms
6 6

5 5

4 4
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3 3
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2 2

1 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Arousal norms Valence norms

Figure 5. Pictures distribution in the valence and arousal categories. (A) Arousal categories. (B) Valence

normative ratings) performed on emotion-eliciting pictures taken 1 describes the assessment of model fit, whereas Part 2 deals with
from the IAPS. Finally, Marques-Teixeira, Barbosa, and Almeida individual differences in feeling generation. This section provides
(2009) presented a relevant SDT methodology for the selection of an important addition to the testing of the model’s suitability
analogous emotion stimuli for groups that differ in their perception showing that its parameters vary meaningfully across individuals.
of emotional information (e.g., psychopathology vs. control). A Predictions are listed in their respective parts.
common denominator of all these prior investigations is that none
of them tested the suitability of SDT as a process model of Method
Participants. Ninety-three young adults (M age ⫽ 24, 67
females), who are Ben-Gurion University undergraduate students,
The Present Work
participated in the experiment in return for a course credit or
The core contribution of the present work is the test of SDT as monetary compensation of 80 NIS (approximately $US23). Two
a process model of feeling generation. To address this issue (see participants were excluded, the first for not completing the three
Kellen & Klauer, 2015), we (a) tested the fit of the SDT model; (b) sessions of the experiment, and the second for not properly under-
compared it to feasible alternative models; (c) examined whether standing the instructions of the task, as revealed in the debriefing.
model parameters vary meaningfully across individuals; and (d) All participants reported being native Hebrew speakers and having
tested a novel prediction of the model with an experimental ma- normal or corrected-to-normal vision.
nipulation. Accordingly, the article presents two separate studies. SDT task. Although not analyzed in the current article, the
The first (and main) study, assesses model fit, but also presents original task also included pictures designated for high and low
individual differences findings regarding the model parameters arousal feelings within both pleasant and unpleasant pictures.
and relevant constructs. Our goal was to test whether the param- While conducting this work, we came across Kron, Goldstein, Lee,
eters covary meaningfully with additional relevant variables. The Gardhouse, and Anderson’s (2013) article, which showed that
second study presents further validation of the model assumptions arousal information contributed very little beyond valence within
via an experimental test of predictions regarding the possible the negative-valence range and have, thus, decided to focus on
sources of noise in emotional evidence. Specifically, this study valence. Yet, to provide the complete design of the original study,
tested the unique prediction that feeling in response to an emo- the full task is presented in this section.3
tional trigger is not solely influenced by that emotional trigger, but Stimuli. The task consisted of four sets of IAPS pictures:
also by the affective context. strong versus weak valence (M(strong) ⫽ 2.35, SD(strong) ⫽ 0.14,

Experiment 1 3
We acknowledge the fact that we relied on the IAPS/NAPS bi-polar
In the present study, we tested a relatively large sample of valence norms, and therefore cannot completely rule out the possibility
that, for some pictures, ratings were the consequence of both pleasant and
participants on our Feeling-SDT task, as well as on several addi- unpleasant feelings. Nevertheless, because the chosen pictures were very
tional measures, described in greater detail in the Individual Dif- negatively valenced, Kron et al.’s (2013) results indicate that such con-
ferences section. The study is reported in two separate parts: Part tamination was probably minimal.

range(strong) ⫽ 2.25–2.75, M(weak) ⫽ 2.95, SD(weak) ⫽ 0.15, answer, using the entire scale range, not only the ends or the middle.
range(weak) ⫽ 3.05–3.55, on a 1 to 9 scale), and high versus low Note that there is no single correct answer. Please answer only
arousal (M(high) ⫽ 5.98, M(low) ⫽ 5.07). Both categories (weak and according to your personal experience when watching the pictures.
strong) were relatively strong, meaning that participants were
Participants were introduced to the scales screen and how to use
required to discriminate between two (strong) levels of feeling.
it. The experimenter gave a short explanation regarding the mean-
Each category contained a relatively large number of pictures
ing of the valence and arousal scales, based on the original in-
(valence: 71; arousal: 72) to at least approach the number of trials
structions of the IAPS norms task (Lang et al., 1999; see Appendix
customary for usual SDT analyses. In addition, we ensured that the
B for details).
standard deviation of the respective emotion within each category
The experimenter then mentioned the rest of the five scales in the
was maintained at a very small value (⬃0.04 scale points for
task (i.e., sadness, disgust, anger, fear, and happiness), and empha-
arousal and ⬃0.09 scale points for valence), to reduce within
sized the importance of replying on inner feelings, even when they
category variability. Additionally, the distance between each pair
seem to contradict what should be the “expected” feeling.
of picture sets was very small, in order to create the ambiguous
Each trial began with a 500-ms fixation cross, followed by a single
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context required for the SDT task. We also ensured a large vari-
IAPS picture presented on a full screen (17-in.) for 5 s. Next, the
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ance along to the other axis (i.e., large variance in valence when
rating screen was presented until participants completed the rating,
estimating arousal and vice versa) to ensure proper representation which was then followed by a distracting task. We added a distracting
of that axis (see Figure 5, for picture attributes). task in an attempt to reduce the carry-over of the emotional response
Trial structure included a fixation point, followed by a short from one picture to the next. Thus, after the rating screen disappeared,
presentation of a picture. After picture disappearance, the rating one trial of a distracting task was conducted. In each such trial, a
slide appeared and participants evaluated their feelings on seven round blot, colored in green or red, was shown at the center of the
continuous scales that were aligned vertically (see Figure 6).4,5 We screen for an unlimited time. Participants were asked to press a left
chose continuous scales to get a report that was as nonverbal as key for a green blot, and a right key for a red one. The color of the
possible and in order to minimize affective labeling, which might stimulus was randomly selected.
have served as an indirect means to down-regulate the emotion According to the debriefing conducted after the experiment,
(e.g., Lieberman, Inagaki, Tabibnia, & Crockett, 2011). Addition- another advantage of the distracting task was participants’ ten-
ally, in the experiment proper, the only verbal stimulus was the dency to regard it as the main task of the experiment, thus, possibly
emotion label that accompanied the more intuitive face caricature reducing the potential influence of various explicit strategies and
(taken from The scale order on expectancies on reported feelings. At the end of the training phase
the slide was fixed. Participants were instructed to first rate va- and twice in each session, participants were requested to call the
lence and arousal scales, starting with the more dominant scale of experimenter, who reminded them to pay attention to the entire
the two, according to their current feeling, and then to complete the scale and reminded them of the importance of reporting according
other scales, again ordered according to their subjective salience. to their sincere feelings. We included this reminder to prevent, as
To prevent fatigue as much as possible, the task was divided into much as possible, a restricted use of the rating scale that would
two equal sessions, separated by different days, with a balanced have made it difficult to apply the standard analyses used with the
number of strong/weak arousal/valence related pictures. Pictures in rating procedure. At the end of the second session, participants
each session were presented in a pseudorandom order, preventing were shortly debriefed to check comprehension of the SDT task.
the appearance of more than two high category pictures in a Emotion regulation choice (ER choice). We took this mea-
sequence to control for possible habituation or sensitization (Brad- sure from Sheppes, Scheibe, Suri, & Gross (2011). Participants
ley, Cuthbert, & Lang, 1996; Bradley, Lang, & Cuthbert, 1993). viewed negatively valenced IAPS pictures, belonging to two sets
Procedure. Before the task proper, we trained the participants in with differing intensity levels on the basis of their normative
the rating task, as is commonly done in SDT experiments (e.g., ratings for arousal and valence (Low intensity: M arousal ⫽ 5.01;
Rotello et al., 2006). Training started after general instructions and the M valence ⫽ 3.41; High intensity: M arousal ⫽ 6.12; M valence ⫽
presentation of the rating bars, and it consisted of 12 trials, three from 1.99). Following an initial presentation of an emotional picture,
each category (i.e., valence(strong/weak), arousal(high/low)). These trials varying in emotional intensity, we instructed participants to choose
were otherwise similar to those in the task proper. The task proper whether to think about something that was emotionally neutral
consisted of 149 trials, separated into two sessions with three blocks (use distraction) or to think about each picture in a way that
in each session. reduced its negative meaning (use reappraisal). The task included
Participants were instructed on how to watch the pictures: 12 training trials, in which participants practiced the employment
of the two strategies, and 30 experimental trials. In each of the 30
You are about to see several pictures. Please watch them carefully. In
addition, I ask that if any emotions arise while viewing, please try experimental trials, participants previewed a picture for 500 ms,
your best to experience them and not to block yourself from feeling.
In other words, suppose the picture arouses anger, joy, sadness, fear, 4
Detailed scales titles in the training procedure (scales heading and
or any other emotion, simply try to experience that emotion naturally footing from left to right): “very positive feeling” to “very negative
without blocking yourself from feeling. (Sheppes & Meiran, 2007) feeling,” “very high arousal” to “no arousal,” “very sad” to “not sad,” “very
disgusted” to “not disgusted,” “very angry” to “not angry,” “very afraid” to
Afterward, instructions concerning emotion ratings were given: “not afraid,” and “very happy” to “not happy.”
Detailed scales titles in the experiment procedure (scales heading from
Please watch each picture carefully. You are required to answer using left to right): “very positive feeling,” “very high arousal,” “sadness,”
these rating scales. It is important that you try to be accurate in your “disgusted,” “angry,” “fear,” and “happy”.

Figure 6. The seven continuous scales used for feelings ratings in the signal detection theory (from left to right:
valence, arousal, sadness, disgust, anger, fear, happiness). Scales were more detailed, verbally. in the training
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phase (left example) than in the experiment proper (right example).

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after which a screen was presented, and participants had to choose the BIC penalizes the SDT models more harshly than it penalizes
freely between reappraisal and distraction, indicating their choice the MDHT models, because the SDT models have more parame-
by pressing one of two buttons. Assignment of the reappraisal and ters. BIC values for the SDT models were computed using Rscore-
distraction strategies to the response buttons was counterbalanced Plus (Harvey, 2010), and, for the MDHT models, using the mpt R
across participants. Participants then implemented their chosen package (Wickelmaier & Zeileis, 2016). Table 1 summarizes the
strategy while viewing the picture for 5 s. To encourage partici- BIC values for each model compared with the other.
pants to watch the pictures, we installed a camera at the top of the One clear conclusion that can already be drawn from Table 1 is
monitor and participants were informed that their faces would be that the SDT models outperformed the MDHT models, quite
videotaped during the task (which never happened). substantially, with 92% to 100% of participants showing a better
Self-report measures. After completing the SDT task and the fit for the SDT models even by the strict ⌬BIC ⬎6 criterion.
ER-choice task, participants completed three questionnaires pre- Comparing BIC scores indicated no significant difference be-
sented via an Internet survey program. The following question- tween the two SDT models. Specifically, although for 78% of the
naires were administered: Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS; participants BIC was numerically smaller for SDT-E than for
Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994), Difficulties in Emotion Regula- SDT-UE, ⌬BIC did not exceed 6 for any of the participants (0% in
tion Scale (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004), and the Big Five the table). We therefore tried to adopt a different approach. In
Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991). Results regard-
SDT-UE, the variance of one of the distributions (e.g., see Figure
ing these questionnaires will be reported elsewhere.
3) is fixed at 1.00, and the other variance is estimated. Thus, we
asked whether the average estimated variance differs significantly
Overall Procedure from 1.00, and the result turned to be significant, t(93) ⫽ 2.68, p ⬍
Testing was conducted in three sessions, administered on dif- .05, indicating that the mean standard deviation of the emotional
ferent days, in which the tasks were ordered as follows: evidence in the high category was smaller by .09 than that in the
In Sessions 1 and 2, the SDT task was divided into two equal low category. (Interestingly, the standard deviation in the norma-
parts (80 min in total, roughly). The experiment was administered tive ratings was slightly larger in the high category). Therefore, we
individually. After signing an informed consent form, participants endorsed Model SDT-UE, and all of the subsequent analyses are
completed the SDT task. In Session 3, they completed the ER- based on this model.6
choice task, followed by BFI, TAS, and DERS questionnaires. At Model fit—Unequal variance Gaussian SDT model. For
the end of the experiment, participants were shortly debriefed. this section, we predicted that, in addition to fitting the results, the
Data analysis. The valence continuous scale was divided into parameter estimates would indicate that the mean d= across the
six equally long sections (in pixels), thus transforming participants entire sample of participants would exceed zero. This is more of
answers to a 1 to 6 rating format. For the valence scale, only the a sanity check than a real prediction, because what defines the
negative part of the scale (which is relevant for the range of categories of stimuli are norms, and the ratings of the entire
the IAPS pictures in the current study) was divided into six, with sample could also be regarded as norms. The SDT model fit was
the lower part considered as 6 and the upper as 1. assessed at the level of individual participants, using the chi-
square test from the maximum likelihood estimation (MLE)
Results—Experiment 1
Part 1: Model choice. Our strategy in choosing between the 6
Note that we performed another analysis testing the equal-variance
models was to fit them to individual participants’ data and then assumption. This analysis was of individual t tests that used the MLE-
compare between them within each participant, using the Bayesian estimated standard errors for (estimated) variance. In this analysis, only
one participant indicated a significant result, thus the procedure indicated
information criterion (BIC; Schwarz, 1978). The BIC is used for priority to the equal variance model. However, we chose to adopt the
model comparison (a small BIC indicates a better model), and it unequal variance model since the assessment described in the text has
penalizes for the number of free parameters in the model. Notably, greater statistical power due to the use of the entire participants’ sample.

Table 1
Model Dominance Table: The Proportion of Participants for Whom the Column-Defined Model Dominated Over the Row-Defined
Model (in Parentheses, the Proportion of Participants for Whom ⌬BIC ⬎ 6, which indicates that the dominant model is 20 times
more likely than the inferior model, given the data and assuming that the models were equally viable a-priori).


Model (16.47, 13.20 –34.37) (17.40, 14.92–33.20) (65.50, 25.89 –115.37) (49.57, 11.30 –108.02) (76.94, 43.45–166.16)

SDT-UE .78 (.00)

MDHT1 1.00 (1.00) 1.00 (.99)
MDHT2 .99 (.96) .99 (.92) .03 (.00)
MDHT3 1.00 (1.00) 1.00 (1.00) .92 (.64) .98 (.97)
Note. Average Bayesian information criterion (BIC) values and BIC value range appear below model names. SDT ⫽ signal detection theory;
SDT-E ⫽ Signal Detection Theory-Equal; SDT-UE ⫽ Signal Detection Theory-Unequal; MDHT1 ⫽ Modified Double High Threshold1; MDHT2 ⫽
Modified Double High Threshold2; MDHT3 ⫽ Modified Double High Threshold3.
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from a well-established computer software (RscorePlus 5.6.1; expected by chance. The mean report threshold (c) did not differ
Harvey, 2010). The significance of chi square of the MLE was significantly from zero, indicating that the average participant’s
set to declare a given participant’s results as unfitting to the “policy” did not show a tendency to report or avoid reporting
Gaussian SDT model. intense negative feelings.
Analyses. The most important result is that the unequal- Part 2: Individual differences. An important aspect of as-
variance Gaussian SDT model provides a satisfactory description sessing model suitability is to test whether model parameters
of the typical participant’s results (see Figure 7). Specifically, the vary meaningfully. We therefore analyzed how the parameters
results of 95% of the participants (N ⫽ 88) fit the Gaussian SDT varied across individuals. Specifically, we claimed that feel-
model, showing a nonsignificant deviation of the model’s predic- ings, as conscious experience, are key in decision making,
tions from the data. perhaps especially when these decisions regard emotion. An
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics for the individual d= excellent example is choosing which regulation strategy to use
and the middle c value (c3, representing the transition from weak in order to downregulate the current emotion (Sheppes et al.,
to strong on the 6-point scale). The mean evidence differentiation 2011). Another area, in which the conscious experience of
(d=) significantly deviated from zero, showing that participants emotion is relevant, is when deciding which discrete feeling we
reacted differently to strong versus weak valenced pictures, as are experiencing at that moment. For example, Russell (2003)
predicted. A t test of evidence differentiation level was calculated and others (e.g., Barrett, 2006b) suggested that the experience
individually and was based on the MLE estimated standard error of valence serves as the basis for forming discrete feelings. For
(SE; for Subject i, ti ⫽ d=i/SEdi). Seventy-three participants (ap-
that reason, we provide some initial individual differences
proximately 79%) had (one-sided) significantly above zero evi-
results relating feeling generation (the c and d= parameters in
dence differentiation (d=), about 16 times more than would be
the SDT model) to individual differences in emotion-regulation
choice and a discrete feeling measure. We begin with an outline
concerning the meaning of individual differences in feeling
Figure 8 demonstrates the hypothetical individual-differences
space in feeling generation, according to the SDT model.7 This
space is formed by two axes: one axis represents the report
threshold (c), and the other represents evidence differentiation (d=).
High d= represents individuals whose emotional reaction to trig-
gers differs as a function of trigger intensity, such that the emo-
tional reaction is considerably stronger when the trigger is strong
than when it is weak. Low d= individuals are those who react
similarly to strong and weak triggers. High c individuals are those

This space thus includes (1) individuals for whom slight “objective”
stimulus differences translate into large differences in emotional sensation
(high d=) yet tend to report having weak feelings (high c). (2) Individuals
for whom slight “objective” stimulus differences translate into large dif-
ferences in emotional sensation (high d=) and also tend to report having
strong feelings (low c). (3) Individuals for whom slight “objective” stim-
ulus differences translate into small differences in emotional sensation (low
d=) yet tend to report having strong feelings (low c). (4) Individuals for
Figure 7. Distribution of chi-square lack-of-fit values (significant dis- whom slight “objective” stimulus differences translate into small differ-
crepancy between the Gaussian signal detection theory (SDT) model and ences in emotional sensation (low d=) and tend to report having weak
the data is denoted by asterisks). feelings (high c).

Table 2 The decision to regulate emotion, or to flexibly choose an

Descriptive Statistics of the SDT Measures (N ⫽ 93) adaptive regulation strategy, is related to the ability to feel an
intense emotion that needs to be regulated (e.g., Barrett, Gross,
SDT valence measure M SD rtta
Christensen, & Benvenuto, 2001; Bonanno & Burton, 2013; Gross,
c ⫺.17 .92 .97 2015; Larsen, 2000; Lischetzke et al., 2005; Sheppes, Suri, &
d= .76b .46 .38 Gross, 2015). We, thus, adopted Sheppes et al.’s (2011, 2015)
Note. SDT ⫽ signal detection theory. ER-choice task. On the basis of Gross’s (1998) process model of
Reliability of c was evaluated by calculating the correlation between c3 emotion regulation, ER choice examines the flexible use of two
and the average value of the other four criteria. Reliability of d= was emotion regulation strategies: (a) distraction—the disengagement
estimated by the procedure described in Appendix A. b Different from
zero (indifference point), p ⬍ .01.
from negative emotion by producing neutral unrelated thoughts
and (b) reappraisal— construing a potentially emotion-eliciting
situation in nonemotional terms (Sheppes et al., 2011). Using the
ER-choice task, Sheppes et al. (2011) showed that participants
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who need strong emotional evidence in order to report intense

prefer using distraction over reappraisal when experiencing an
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negative feeling. Low c individuals require only minimal emo-

tional evidence in order to report intense feeling. intense emotion. To increase the equivalence between our SDT
The fact that we had a relatively large sample made it possible task and the ER-choice task, the difference between strong and
to assess the correlations between feeling generation parameters weak triggers was set to be similar in the two tasks. We predicted
and relevant individual differences constructs. These constructs that low report threshold would correlate with an increased rate of
included emotion regulation choice, affective style, personality, choosing distraction over reappraisal in the ER-choice task be-
and the adherence to norms in reported discrete feelings. Because cause a low threshold implies greater chances of experiencing a
of space limitation, the current report is restricted to emotion low-intensity stimulus as high intensity.
regulation choice and the discrete feelings reports, whereas the A more exploratory aspect of our study concerned the question
remaining results will be reported elsewhere. Nonetheless, to pre- of whether the ability to correctly differentiate emotionally be-
vent ␣ inflation, our analytic approach took into account the fact tween stimuli varying in valence is related to the ability to cor-
that affective style and personality were also assessed. rectly label this emotional experience in terms of discrete emotions

High d’ = large differenaon

High C =
tends not to report
Low C = Report threshold
tends to report

Low d’ = small differenaon

Figure 8. Graphic depiction of the anticipated individual-differences space. The rectangles represent the
distribution of emotional evidence, given weak (grey) or strong (striped) triggers. The arrows point to the
location of the report threshold. Accordingly, the combinations on the left represent low threshold and those on
the right represent high threshold. The upper combinations represent high evidence differentiation (small overlap
in emotion evidence) and those at the bottom represent low evidence differentiation. See endnote for the four
salient possible combinations of c and d=, or “types” of persons.

(Ekman & Cordaro, 2011) or prototypical emotion episodes (Rus- Report threshold.
sell & Barrett, 1999). We therefore created a measure of discrete ER choice. The means in Table 3 show that we successfully
feeling calibration, reflecting whether one’s pattern of discrete replicated the basic finding (Sheppes et al., 2011) that participants
negative emotions (anger, fear, disgust, sadness) resembled the tend to prefer distraction over reappraisal in the high-intensity
norm, which was the mean rating across the entire sample. Aside condition, and that the opposite preference is shown in the low
from referring to discrete emotions, our measure resembled d= in intensity condition, t(92) ⫽ 16.98, p ⬍ .001. Two individual
that “success” meant that one’s responses adhered to a norm. Yet, differences measures were considered for the correlational analy-
the two measures differed in the level of feeling specification. ses. The first, proportion of using distraction for low emotional
Some authors (Barrett, 2006b; Russell, 2003) have explicitly intensity pictures, P(distraction in low emotion), represents the
suggested that valence, as core affect, is more basic than discrete tendency to favor distraction strategy for low intensity pictures.
feelings. These theories, therefore, seem to predict that the degree The second, proportion of using distraction for high emotional
to which one’s core affect (valence) is experienced correctly intensity pictures, P(distraction in high emotion), represents the
(namely, in a manner which adheres to the norms) dictates whether tendency to favor distraction strategy for high intensity pictures.
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this would also be true for discrete emotions. Such a positive We analyzed the relations between variables (Table 4 and Fig-
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correlation might also reflect the fact that both of these measures ure 9) using multiple regression. In this regression analysis, we
require having reliable access to one’s emotional state. used the ER-choice variables as predictors of c.8 The regression
Analyses. The pattern of significant results was similar in the analysis indicated a significant result (R2 ⫽ .10, p ⫽ .009). Simple
full sample and when participants whose results did not meet
correlations showed that only P(distraction in high emotion) was
the model’s assumption were excluded. Accordingly, the results of
significantly and negatively correlated with c (r ⫽ ⫺.31, p ⫽
the full sample are presented.
.002), meaning that participants for whom even low levels of
Means, variance, and reliabilities—SDT measures. The
negative emotional evidence reached conscious awareness (low c)
middle criterion of the valence scale, c3, was chosen as the
tended to use distraction relatively frequently, and this was evident
representative criterion for the correlational analysis because it
only for high-emotion stimuli.
represents the middle criterion, thus dividing the 1 to 6 scale into
Discrete feeling calibration. Lack of calibration, for a given
two equal parts. For brevity, we call it c. As is shown in Table 2,
feeling dimension within a given picture, was defined as (report-
the criterion had excellent reliability. Seeing that for the evidence
differentiation parameter (d=), reliability was lower, correlational norm)2/norm. For Subject j, lack of calibration ⫽ 兺i⫽1 f
共Xij ⫺
analysis of this parameter was exploratory and results should be Xi兲 ⁄Xi , where f is the number of discrete feelings that are ranked

regarded cautiously. in the experiment. This quantity represents the deviation from the
Analytic strategy for the correlational analyses. In the anal- norm (mean ratings) of the participant’s discrete feeling ratings. To
ysis of report threshold (c), in order to control for potential ␣ facilitate the interpretability of the results, lack of calibration was
inflation, we adopted a hierarchical analytic approach. The vari- multiplied by ⫺1, so that the measure would reflect the partici-
ables were divided based on the constructs they represent into four pant’s calibration, rather than lack of calibration.
separate groups (only the first two groups are reported in this The correlation between the report threshold (c) and discrete
article): (1) measures derived from the ER-choice task; (2) discrete feeling calibration indicated a significant result under ␣ correction
feeling calibration; (3) measures derived from affective style ques- (r ⫽ .45, p ⬍ .001; see Figure 9b). In other words, participants
tionnaires; and, (4) measures derived from personality question- presenting low feeling calibration also had a low report threshold,
naires. To keep alpha at .05 across the entire set of analyses, we (a) meaning that they tended to report experiencing strongly negative
divided alpha by four, the number of sets of analyses/constructs feelings. Note that the scatterplot in Figure 9b does not indicate a
(.05/4 ⫽ .0125), and, (b) when a given construct was represented linear relationship. Rather, it seems to indicate a categorical dis-
by multiple variables, we began the analyses in each such group by tinction between participants with a high report threshold (above
a multivariate test with the corrected alpha from above (.0125). zero), which consistently presented high calibration for reporting
Only when the multivariate test indicated significance did we discrete feelings, and participants with a low report threshold
further explore the results with simple correlations. Note that the (below zero), who showed high variability in their discrete feeling
analysis of the evidence differentiation (d=) was exploratory and calibration.
did not include ␣ corrections. All relevant correlations are pre- Since two different constructs in the study were significantly
sented in Table 3. related to c (i.e., discrete feeling calibration and P[distraction for
high emotion]), we assessed the correlation between the two to
ensure that the correlations of the criterion with the two measures
Table 3 did not reflect the same phenomenon, due to their possible overlap.
Mean, Standard Deviations, and Reliability Scores of Emotion The analysis indicated no meaningful correlation between P(distrac-
Regulation Choice Task Measures

Measure M SD rtta 8
Note that, although we performed a multiple regression analysis, we
P(distraction in low emotion) .25 .14 .43 did not treat the ER-choice variables as “causes.” Rather, given the fact that
P(distraction in high emotion) .61 .15 .46 they were conceptually similar, we used the multiple-regression analysis as
a means of simultaneously testing the relation between ER-choice and SDT
Cronbach’s alpha reliability. measures.

Table 4
Summary of Pearson Correlations with c (N ⫽ 93)

Measure r

ER choice
P(distraction in low emotion) .05
P(distraction in high emotion) ⴚ.31ⴱ
Discrete feeling calibration .45ⴱⴱ

p ⬍ .05. ⴱⴱ p ⬍ .001 (which is smaller than the required p ⫽ .0125 after
controlling for alpha inflation).

tion for high emotion) and discrete feeling calibration, r ⫽ ⫺.12,

p ⫽ .264.
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Exploratory correlational analysis of evidence differentia- Figure 10. Scatterplot corresponding to the significant correlations be-
tion (d=). The correlation matrix between the evidence differen- tween d= and discrete feeling calibration. Outlier circled.
tiation, (d=) and the two individual differences constructs indicated
a significant and positive correlation with discrete feeling calibra-
tion, r ⫽ .22, p ⫽ .030, reflecting that participants whose evidence provides a better description of the results than the SDT-E model.
differentiation was strong, were relatively accurate/normative in In addition, SDT-UE provided a good fit to the results of 95% of
their discrete feelings ratings (see Figure 10). The scatterplot the participants, with only 5% (the rate expected by chance)
indicates an outlier participant (circled), but the correlation re- showing a significant discrepancy between model and data.
mained significant even when computed without this participant, Individual differences in feeling generation. Our individual
r ⫽ .27, p ⫽ .009. differences results indicate excellent individual differences reli-
Lastly, since both the report threshold (c) and evidence differ- ability of the report threshold (c) and low reliability for evidence
entiation, (d=) were correlated with discrete feeling calibration, we differentiation (d=), perhaps indicating that the report criterion
performed a multiple regression analysis, with SDT parameters as represents a more stable trait. This may seem somewhat paradox-
predictors of the measure, in order to evaluate the unique contri- ical since in SDT, the criterion usually represents a “policy” that
bution of each parameter to the construct. A significant model was can be changed. However, the fact that the criterion can change
found for discrete feeling calibration (R2 ⫽ .23, p ⬍ .001) with does not contradict the possibility that individuals adopt a pre-
both c and d= as significant predictors (␤ ⫽ 0.41, p ⬍ .001; ␤ ⫽ ferred criterion in the lack of any specific instructions. We, thus,
0.22, p ⫽ .02, respectively). consider the correlations found with the report threshold (c; see
Table 5) to be the main and steady individual differences findings.
The main reason for examining individual differences was to
Discussion—Experiment 1
examine whether the model’s parameters are meaningfully related
Model comparison and model fit. The results indicate that to how people manage their emotional life. A summary of the
the two SDT models outperformed all three MDHT models, and results is presented in Table 5. We found that a low report
also that the unequal-variance Gaussian SDT model (SDT-UE) threshold was correlated with a high P(distraction in high emo-

a b
1.2 1000
discrete feeling calibration



0.6 -3000

0.4 -4000
0.0 -7000

-0.2 -8000
-4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4

c c

Figure 9. Scatterplots of the significant correlations between c and relevant constructs. Scatterplot (a), with
P(distraction in high emotion). Scatterplot (b), with “discrete feeling calibration,” representing the accuracy in
the pattern of discrete feelings, see text for details.

Table 5
Summary of Main Correlations Between SDT Parameters and Relevant Constructs

SDT parameter
Criterion variable Report threshold (c) Evidence differentiation (d=)

Emotion regulation choice Low report threshold ⬍–⬎ Distraction

preferred over reappraisal
Discrete feeling calibration High report threshold ⬍–⬎ Calibrated High evidence differentiation ⬍–⬎
discrete feelings Calibrated discrete feelings

tion), which is the proportion of ER-choice trials in which partic- sure (in a block-wide context, as opposed to the trial-wide trigger
ipants preferred distraction over reappraisal (in the high negative in the SDT task) to a subtle emotional stimuli irrelevant to the SDT
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emotion condition). The SDT model provides a rather simple task. Note that, although the influence of affective manipulation on
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explanation for the ER-Choice results: Choosing distraction takes self-reported feelings has been studied in the past (e.g., Katzir &
place when one experiences an intense feeling (Sheppes et al., Eyal, 2013), it has neither been tested under the framework of the
2011), and this is likely to happen when the criterion is low. SDT model of feeling generation (with SDT parameters represent-
Feeling calibration, the (lack of) discrepancy from the norm ing changes in one’s feeling) nor has it been tested with our
in discrete feeling ratings, was uniquely and moderately asso- paradigm. Consequently, there remains uncertainty whether this
ciated with both high evidence differentiation ((d=)) and a high literature bares relevance to the present model.
report threshold (c). The evidence differentiation results are Perhaps the most relevant here is the literature regarding the
compatible with a theory that discrete emotions rely on first influence of unrelated emotional context on the affective reaction.
experiencing core affect, which includes valence (Russell, For example, Västfjäll et al. (2016) distinguished between integral
2003). However, it could also reflect the fact that both measures affect, which is related to the emotional trigger (e.g., the newspa-
represent adherence to norms. The positive correlation between per article in Sharon’s example), and incidental affect, which is
feeling calibration and high c was not predicted. A possible post unrelated to it, but is present as background (e.g., having drank
hoc account is that a low threshold implies high feeling inten-
coffee in Sharon’s example). Importantly, many theorists (e.g.,
sity, which may lead to distraction (Sheppes et al., 2011) and,
Bechara, 2011; Forgas, 1995; Neumann, Seibt, & Strack, 2001;
thus, to a failure to gather the needed information to determine
Schwarz & Clore, 2003) agree that the emotional judgment of
discrete feelings.
triggers is potentially influenced not only by integral affect (which
may be regarded as accurate), but also by incidental affect. Thus,
Experiment 2 from the SDT model’s perspective, incidental affect consists of a
A core assumption of the SDT model is that the emotional source of noise. In other words, integral affect is reflected in the d=
system is noisy. Following Treisman (1964), we discriminate parameter, whereas momentary fluctuations in incidental affect
between three sources of noise: (1) the differences between the contribute to noise.
normative ratings of stimuli belonging to the same category (e.g., Experiments 2A and 2B tested whether incidental affect would
our “mild” category included stimuli whose normative ratings change the SDT model’s parameters in a predictable manner,
ranged between 2.8 –3.1); (2) momentary fluctuations in the inter- supporting the notion of the uncertainty of the emotional system.
nal emotional evidence that was present in the system before the Note that at this point, we cannot determine the exact source: it
stimulus was presented. In this case, the internal emotional evi-
dence could be the momentary mood (here we treat moods as 9
unrelated to particular stimuli; Gray & Watson, 2001); and, (3) Relying on norms in our SDT paradigm adds variance components that
reflect the person’s discrepancy from the norms. One component is non-
momentary fluctuations in system’s reactivity, that is, the same systematic and the other is systematic. The nonsystematic personal dis-
stimulus generating different levels of emotional evidence in dif- crepancy from the norm is seen when, for example, two stimuli whose
ferent occasions. norms are identical (e.g., 3.00 on some arbitrary units) correspond to
In Experiment 1, it was impossible to determine which one of different emotional intensities for the given person (2.50 and 3.50), while
not changing the mean of the category (3.00). This nonsystematic discrep-
the three potential sources has generated the noise. Most impor- ancy increases stimulus variance within a category and, as such, increases
tantly, if noise were entirely a function of the inherent variance of the total noise (␴-noise; see Figure 3). As a result, the difference between
the stimuli within each category (Source 1, according to Treisman, the distributions’ means, in terms of ␴-noise units (which is how d= is
1964), then this would indicate that noise is only a function of the defined) is reduced. Thus, the presence of nonsystematic personal discrep-
experimental setup and would thus undermine the essential aspects ancy would reflect in reduced d= estimates.
The systematic component exists when, for example, for a specific
of the SDT model.9 The results of Experiment 1 already provide a participant, all the mild stimuli generate intense emotional evidence. Such
strong hint that this is probably not the case because in comparison a bias would reduce the discrepancy between the “mild” and the “intense”
to the high category, the low category had smaller variance in the category, and would thus reflect in low d=. Of course, other forms of
normative ratings but had higher variance in emotional evidence. systematic bias could increase d= (e.g., when all the mild stimuli generate
very mild emotional evidence) or change c (e.g., when all the stimuli, both
Nonetheless, we wanted to have more solid evidence. Experiments mild and intense, generate highly intense emotional evidence). In sum-
2A and 2B were set to test whether noise is also due to Sources 2 mary, the systematic discrepancy between the person’s reactions and the
and 3, using a contextual affect manipulation, that is, short expo- norms is manifested in the model’s parameters.

may be that the emotion sensation generated by the trigger adds to chosen to create an ambiguous situation, in which participants do
preexisting internal emotional evidence (Source 2), but also that not tend to suspect the intention of elevating their feeling. In
the emotional trigger and the emotional context interact with each addition, to prevent intentional change in the SDT ratings after
other in a nonadditive manner (Source 3). watching the clips, participants were informed that, in the second
In Experiments 2A and 2B, participants completed an SDT task. part, we would assess the impact of negative pictures on compre-
The experiment was divided into two parts. The first part was hension (measured by the questions regarding the clips). Thus,
similar to Experiment 1. In the second part, participants rated only though the clips induced distinct positive feelings (as indicated by
strong stimuli (2A) or only weak stimuli (2B) in the context of a a questionnaire completed at the end of the experiment), the true
positive affect manipulation. The manipulation, two short video- goal of the manipulation was disguised.
clips, watched before and in the middle of the experimental block, Subjective experience questionnaires. The first question-
was aimed to induce a feeling associated with caring, optimism, naire aimed to assess participants’ experience during the experi-
and compassion. This goal was disguised by describing the videos ment (e.g., level of exhaustion, sense of accuracy in the rating task,
as an additional cognitive task tapping “comprehension” and that and explanation of the experiment’s purpose in their own words).
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we were interested in studying how comprehension is influenced The second questionnaire aimed to assess participants’ subjective
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by watching emotional pictures. feelings while watching the two clips. First, in free writing, and
Under the contextual noise assumption, we reasoned that, in afterward by rating their feelings by marking continuous scales of
both experiments, ratings would be less negative under the manip- optimism versus pessimism, happiness versus sadness, gratifica-
ulation condition. Specifically, this manipulation adds evidence tion versus luckless, belonging versus loneliness, and caring versus
against negative feeling, and thus the total amount of (negative) indifference.
emotional evidence is lowered. As a result, we predicted that d=, Procedure. Participants completed the task in one session,
the evidence differentiation, in Experiment 2A to be higher, be- divided into two blocks with a few minutes break between them.
cause of lowering of the lower distribution (of low negative Block 1 contained a balanced number of strong\weak valence
valence). In Experiment 2B, an opposite pattern was predicted related pictures presented in random order (total of 80 pictures, 40
(lower d=), due to lowering of the upper distribution (of high in each category). In Block 2, participants rated only 20 pictures
negative valence). See (especially the shift in the dotted distribu- from either weak negative category (Experiment 2A) or the strong
tion in) Figure 11.10 negative category (Experiment 2B). To control for picture content,
we counterbalanced by creating, in each experiment three equiv-
Method alent picture sets, differing only in which 20 pictures were pre-
sented in the manipulation block. The two video clips were pre-
Participants. Twenty-seven young adults (M age ⫽ 24.2, 18 sented in Block 2. One clip was presented at the beginning of the
females) completed Experiment 2A and 30 young adults (M age ⫽ block, and the second one was in the middle of it.
24.3, 14 females) completed Experiment 2B, in return for a course In both Experiments, participants completed the training phase
credit or monetary compensation of 45 NIS (approximately and Block 1 in a similar manner to Experiment 1. The procedure
$US12). Three participants were excluded: one for lack of under- differed only in the manipulation block. Participants were in-
standing of the task and two for technical problems during partic- structed on how to complete the new task:
ipation. All participants reported being native Hebrew speakers
and having normal or corrected-to-normal vision. In the second part of the experiment, you are requested to alternate
Stimuli for the SDT task. Similar to the original task (Ex- between the tasks you already completed to an additional task. “Rat-
ing task” is the task you completed in the first part of the experiment.
periment 1), the task consisted of two sets of negatively valenced
“Comprehension task” is the additional task. It is a cognitive task
pictures: strong versus weak (Mstrong ⫽ 2.55, SDstrong ⫽ 0.099,
which includes watching short clips and answering comprehension
rangestrong ⫽ 2.26 –2.75; Mweak ⫽ 3.33, SDweak ⫽ 0.094, questions afterwards.
rangeweak ⫽ 3.03–3.55, on a 1 to 9 scale). One-hundred nine
pictures were taken from the Nencki Affective Pictures System At this point, as part of a deception, the experimenter stressed
(NAPS; Marchewka et al., 2014). Nine were used for practice and the following: “The purpose of this part is to assess the ability to
100 for the task. alternate between unrelated tasks. Moreover, we are interested in
Video clips. Participants watched two short video-clips (⬃5 the way watching negative pictures impacts cognitive performance
min each). Clip order was fixed. The first clip was a shortened and, specifically, memory of details of the clips.” Participants were
version of the TED talk “How technology allowed me to read” then informed that they would have to answer one comprehension
(McCallum, 2013). The second clip was a YouTube clip of Nick question after every two trials of the “rating task” on the paper
Vujicic, titled “No arms no legs no worries” (Neworld, 2010). The sheet given to them. Participants then watched the first clip.
clips were used to induce positive feelings of optimism, caring, Immediately after, they completed one set of alternations (two
and compassion, yet in a context of negative life experience of trials of the rating task and one comprehension question). The
severe handicap. Each clip was followed by five short questions experimenter made sure that the procedure was clear and that the
regarding the clip content (e.g., “Recall where in the clip the
expression “blind computer” was used”). Participants replied in
hand writing on a dedicated paper divided into 10 sections. The There are possible predictions also for the report threshold (c) in the
two experiments, yet we chose not to include them at this point, because we
additional questions were added in order to encourage participants did not have any clear predictions and adding separate report thresholds
to keep in mind the film content (and the related feelings) during would substantially enlarge the number of free parameters in the model (by
the completion of the SDT rating task. Such a manipulation was 5), making it less parsimonious.

d’ manipulaon
Weak under Strong
Weak signal signal


Emoonal evidence connuum

d’ manipulaon
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Strong under
Weak signal manipulaon Strong signal


Figure 11. Predictions for Experiment 2A and 2B. The (irrelevant) affective context was predicted to reduce
the amount of negative emotional evidence, lowering the distribution related to the weak signal (Experiment 2A)
or the strong signal (Experiment 2B).

participants indicated satisfactory recollection of the clip. Partici- In addition, we assessed the emotional reactions to the video
pants were then instructed to complete four more alternations. clips through the questionnaire at the end of the experiment.
Afterward, they watched the second clip and then completed the Qualitative analysis of participants’ literal response indicated dom-
second half of alternation sets immediately after. inant experience of inspiration and optimism along with compas-
Trial structure in the rating task resembled Experiment 1, except sion. Moreover, all averaged ratings across the two experiments
that participants did not rate their arousal and happiness. In addi- indicated positive ratings and all were significantly different from
tion, on the valence scale, participants were requested to rate only the neutral point, as indicated by t test (p ⬍ .01).
negative valence (one-dimension scale). At the end of the exper-
iment, participants completed the two short, subjective experience Experiment 2A
questionnaires and were shortly debriefed.
Model Fit
Results—Experiments 2A and 2B
The unequal-variance Gaussian SDT model provided a satisfac-
Analyses. Data analysis was similar to that in Experiment 1, tory description of the typical participant’s results. Specifically,
except for the following changes. Instead of two valence categories the results of 96% of the participants (26 participants out of N ⫽
(strong and weak stimuli), we used three categories: In Experiment 27) fit the Gaussian SDT model, showing a nonsignificant devia-
2A, categories included (in descending intensity order, according tion of the model’s predictions from the data. As in Experiment 1,
to our predictions) strong (Block 1), weak (Block 1), and weak the mean standard deviation of the emotional evidence in the high
under manipulation (Block 2). In Experiment 2B, categories in- intensity category was numerically smaller by .05 than that in the
cluded (in descending intensity order) strong (Block 1), strong low intensity category (both standard deviations estimated without
under affect manipulation (Block 2), and weak (Block 1). a manipulation). This difference did not reach significance how-
Chosen SDT model. As in Experiment 1, we adopted the ever.
SDT-UE model (and not SDT-E) because a slightly larger percent
of the participants indicated a nonsignificant deviation of the
Affect Manipulation
model’s predictions from the data on the basis of individual
chi-square values. As in Experiment 1, the SDT parameter d= (evidence differen-
Manipulation Check. To assess whether we succeeded in tiation) was calculated using the MLE procedure (Harvey, 2010).
disguising the purpose of the manipulation, we included a short For each participant, the mean emotional evidence of the most
debriefing at the end of the experiment, in which participants were negative valence category (strong negative, presented in Block 1)
asked to speculate regarding the experiment’s purpose. Of the was fixed at zero. Two separate d= values were calculated for each
participants, 84% in Experiment 2A and 76% in Experiment 2B participant: regular d= (for the discrepancy between the weak and
did not indicate detecting the true purpose of the manipulation. strong categories, without manipulation) and d=manipulation (for the

discrepancy between the strong valence category and the weak positive feeling (Source 2), or making the experience of the neg-
category under manipulation). ative picture itself less negative (Source 3), or both (see also
As predicted, averaged emotional evidence for weak negative Treisman, 1964). Either way, context creates uncertainty in the
stimuli were significantly less negative under affect manipula- emotional system making it unclear whether the emotional reac-
tion, t(25) ⫽ 4.74, p ⬍ .01, one-tailed, Cohen’s d ⫽ 0.93, tion to the trigger is appropriate or not.
⌬d= ⫽ 0.44. ⌬d= referring to the difference between d’ and A less focal, yet important contribution of Experiments 2A and
d’manipulation, see Figure 11. In other words, when only weak 2B is the fact that the results of a high proportion of the partici-
stimuli were under affect manipulation, the ability to differen- pants were well described by SDT-UE. Additionally, this finding
tiate between different negative intensities increased, manifest- provides some extension of our conclusions since the stimuli
ing in larger d= (see Figure 11). (NAPS) were different than in Experiment 1 (IAPS). Importantly,
the replication was now based on a different set of picture norms,
Experiment 2B yet important aspects of the results were replicated, including the
smaller noise variance in the high-intensity category. These find-
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ings indicate generality of our results beyond a specific set of

Model Fit
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stimuli and ratings, and therefore also provide some validation of

The equal-variance Gaussian SDT model provided a satisfactory our underlying assumptions.
description of the typical participant’s results. Specifically, accord- One could, of course, object to this conclusion by arguing that
ing to the MLE procedure, the results of 100% of the participants what makes a “trigger” here is the combination of the video and
(N ⫽ 30) fit the Gaussian SDT model for valence, showing a the NAPS picture, rather than just the NAPS picture as we have
nonsignificant deviation of the model’s predictions from the data. defined it. Our counter argument has two elements. With respect
As in Experiment 1, the mean estimated standard deviation of the to the experiments themselves, we have disguised the goal of
emotional evidence in the high intensity category was smaller by the manipulation and the disguise appeared to be quite success-
.12 than that in the low intensity category (both standard deviations ful. More broadly, it is established in the literature (e.g., Väst-
estimated without a manipulation). In this experiment, the afore- fjäll et al., 2016), as well as in our own personal lives, that we
mentioned difference has even reached significance, t(29) ⫽ 2.94, might either emotionally overreact or underreact to triggers
p ⬍ .05, two-tailed, Cohen’s d ⫽ 0.80. because of completely irrelevant (to the trigger) mood or other
affective contexts. Moreover, whereas we might be aware of
Affect Manipulation irrelevant affective contexts at times, at other times, we might
not, and these fluctuations create an inherent noise in our
An analysis similar to Experiment 2A was performed, except emotional system.
that, for each participant, the mean emotional evidence of the
weakest valence category (weak negative, presented in Block 1)
was fixed at zero. Two separate d= values were calculated for each General Discussion
participant: regular d= (for the discrepancy between the weak and
Our emotional system provides an evaluation of triggers. Such
strong categories, without manipulation) and d=manipulation (for the
evaluation is crucial for decision-making, social communication,
discrepancy between the weak valence category and the strong
and so forth. In the present work, we introduced an SDT model of
category under manipulation).
As predicted, averaged emotional evidence for strong negative feeling generation in reaction to an emotional trigger. Our model
stimuli were significantly less negative under affect manipulation, continues two lines of work. One line of work is conceptualiza-
t(29) ⫽ 4.06, p ⬍ .01, one-tailed, Cohen’s d ⫽ 0.74, ⌬d= ⫽ 0.24. tions, which draw an analogy between feelings and sensation (e.g.,
⌬d= referring to the difference between d’ and d’manipulation, see Chang et al., 2015; Sokolov & Boucsein, 2000; Thagard & Aubie,
Figure 11. In other words, when only strong stimuli were under 2008). The other line of work is extending SDT to emotion-related
affect manipulation, the ability to differentiate between different domains (e.g., Nielsen & Kaszniak, 2006; Neufeld, 1975).
negative intensities decreased (see Figure 11). According to the SDT model, emotional evaluation is noisy
since it is influenced by background elements, such as mood (Gray
& Watson, 2001), having been exposed to other triggers before-
Discussion hand (e.g., Barry et al., 2005; Payne, Hall, Cameron, & Bishara,
In Experiments 2A and 2B, contextual affect manipulation 2010), the semantic context (e.g., Sharon has just spoken to her
(video clips inducing positive feeling) influenced the evidence daughter who is afraid of losing her job), having consumed
differentiation parameter (d=). In Experiment 2A, d= under manip- psychoactive substances (e.g., the coffee in Sharon’s example),
ulation increased, due to less negative ratings of the weak negative and so forth. This fact creates an inherent uncertainty. Am I
stimuli. In Experiment 2B, d= under manipulation decreased, due feeling horrible because of hearing bad news, or because my
to less negative ratings of the strong negative stimuli. Thus, the mood was bad even beforehand? Am I full of joy because of
two experiments provide important evidence for the existence of having received flowers for my wedding day or because of the
noise in the emotional system, in the sense of not being purely beer I just drank?
influenced by the current emotional trigger. Importantly, the find- According to the model, two processes jointly determine feel-
ings support the notion that the source of this noise is not merely ing. Evidence differentiation (d=) represents the ability to emotion-
due to stimulus variability. Therefore, the findings imply addi- ally differentiate between emotional triggers of different intensity.
tional sources of noise in which the affective context either adds The criterion (c) represents the report threshold, or the amount of

accumulated emotional evidence concerning the trigger, above Have we measured feeling generation? In sensation re-
which an intense feeling becomes available for report. search, the two main paradigms are detection (i.e., testing the
We tested our model with a paradigm that closely resembles ability to discriminate between situations in which a very weak
typical sensation SDT paradigms. Yet, it was designed in such a signal is present to those in which it is absent) and discrimination
way that it strongly encouraged reporting genuine feelings (see (i.e., testing the ability to discriminate between signals of similar
Introduction for an elaboration). The results support the model in intensity). One might argue that to study feeling generation, the
showing that it substantially outperformed plausible competing proper task is detection, as it deals with emergence of feelings. In
models and by showing nonsignificant lack of fit.11 In addition, reaction, we argue that the detection task is a special case of
model parameters behaved in a predictable manner including their discrimination (between signal present and signal absent). Having
mean value, how this mean was affected by a manipulation, and by said that, we do not deny the importance of conducting such a
their meaningful individual differences correlations with criterion study, especially given the ambiguous meaning of c in discrimi-
variables. nation tasks (see Appendix C).
Additionally, as fully acknowledged beforehand (see Figure 1),
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Theoretical Implications our model does not cover all aspects of the feeling generation
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process. For example, it does not say how the various sources of
We view the emergence of feelings as involving decision under evidence integrate and it also assumes (in line with previous
uncertainty. Thus, feelings are inherently associated with errors claims; Barrett et al., 2007; Ochsner & Gross, 2014; Sokolov &
that include over or under reactions to a trigger. In other words, the Boucsein, 2000), but does not show, evidence for such integration.
erroneous response is defined in relation to a trigger. Note that this We measured adherence to norms rather than feelings.
assumption does not dispute the individual nature of emotional Our operationalization, in which trigger intensity is based on
evidence (e.g., a person having an intense reaction to a weak norms, reflects our position that in many respects, the emotional
stimulus). As described by the fluctuating line in Figure 2, the skills of a person depend on their calibration to rules and norms of
emotional evidence, as reflecting the initial reactivity to an emo- society. We are not unique in this regard. For example, the DSM-5
tional trigger, cannot be erroneous according to our model. Yet (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) defines various psycho-
later on in the process (see Part C in Figure 1), after the decision pathological symptoms or disorders by excessive (e.g., generalized
is made whether to “broadcast” the emotion (Cohen & Dennett, anxiety disorder) or overly conservative (e.g., anhedonia) emo-
2011), errors occur. tional reaction, which we interpret as deviations from normative
reaction. Another example is the study of “understanding emo-
Clinical and Applied Implications tions” and “managing emotions” in emotional intelligence, where
what is regarded as the “correct” interpretation of a stimulus is the
The present model could provide a powerful tool to understand- normative response (Salovey & Grewal, 2005).
ing individual differences in personality traits and psychopathol- In addition, one might claim that participants’ ratings reflect the
ogy. Our individual differences results suggest that the report perceived emotional quality of the picture, rather than subjective
threshold may be considered as a trait. This leads to a speculation feeling in reaction to the emotional quality. Indeed, under the
that some forms of psychopathology may be viewed as reflecting current paradigm we cannot dissociate between these (related)
faulty emotional decision making. For example, in posttraumatic aspects. However, we believe that the fact that SDT parameters
stress disorder, the experience of generalized anxiety toward trig- were correlated with how individuals chose to regulate their own
gers that are only remotely related to the original traumatic event emotions in the ER-choice task (see Experiment 1) gives strong
(e.g., Ehlers & Clark, 2000) may be conceptualized by a low support to the notion that feelings (and not the emotional quality of
criterion. Such a low criterion has the advantage of a low miss rate the picture) were rated, as regulation choice has been shown to rely
(helping avoid potential danger), but is associated with an in- on one’s subjective emotional experience. Additionally, the results
creased false alarm rate (experiencing intense anxiety in reaction
of Experiments 2A and 2B indicate a shift in the feelings that were
to benign triggers). On the other hand, the experience of anhedonia
aroused by the stimuli as a result of a manipulation that influenced
(i.e., diminished interest or pleasure in response to stimuli that
the context rather than the pictures, a result that provides some
were previously perceived as rewarding; e.g., Treadway & Zald,
additional support for the hypothesis that participants reported
2011) may be conceptualized as a tendency for having a relatively
their own feelings.
high report threshold for feelings. Such a high threshold is helpful
Feelings are deeply subjective and cannot be studied using
in avoiding negative feelings (reducing false alarms), but comes at
norms. One could argue that a picture of a snake might be
the cost of failing to experience positive feelings (increasing
experienced as aesthetic (and therefore only mildly unpleasant) for
misses). A similar line of conceptualization regarding positive
one person and as terribly frightening for another person, making
symptoms in schizophrenia has recently been introduced by Moritz
the norms useless for studies like this one. Whereas we fully agree
et al. (2016), who suggest that psychosis is characterized by a
lowered decision threshold, and thus, for example, fleeting delu-
sional ideas are easily accepted as strong beliefs. 11
The plausible models were variants to the double high threshold
model. This model is contrasted with SDT models in the recognition-
memory literature, and it appears as if complex threshold models can be
Possible Objections formulated so that they would perform as successfully as the SDT model
(Kellen & Klauer, 2015). We thus do not wish to overstate the fact that our
In this section, we outline several possible objections to our SDT models outperformed the threshold models in the sense that we do not
model, experimental approach, and findings. deny the fact that other, more elaborate threshold models might succeed.

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(Appendices follow)

Appendix A
Reliability for d

To obtain a reliability estimate, we used the formula relating the ␴2E

standard error of measurement to reliability (Lord, Novick, & Birn- ␳xx ⫽ 1 ⫺
baum, 1968; Formula 3.8.3, p.67). This formula is usually used to
derive the standard error of measurement once we know the reliability where ␳xx is the reliability, ␴E2 is the sample-based population-
and the standard deviation. In the present case, however, we used the estimate of the parameter variance, and ␴x2 is the pooled standard
standard error of measurement and the standard deviation to compute error of measurement, computed as the mean SE across all partic-
the reliability, as follows: ipants as estimated by the MLE procedure.
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Appendix B

SDT task instructions included an explanation regarding the middle of the scale. You can also select any point between these
meaning of the valence and arousal scales, based on the original three points on the scale. This permits you to make more finely
instructions of the IAPS norms task (Lang et al., 1999): graded ratings of how you feel in reaction to the pictures. The
excited vs. calm dimension, or “emotional arousal” dimension is
One of the scales you are required to rate is the happy-unhappy
the second type of feeling displayed here. At one extreme of the
scale, which ranges from a smile to a frown. At one extreme of the
scale you felt stimulated, excited, frenzied, jittery, wide-awake,
happy vs. unhappy scale, you felt happy, pleased, satisfied, con-
tented, hopeful. If you felt completely happy while viewing the aroused. If you felt completely aroused while viewing the picture,
picture, you can indicate this by moving the bar to the top of the you can indicate this by moving the bar to the top of the scale
scale (demonstrated on the continuous scale). The other end of (demonstrated on the continuous scale). On the other hand, at the
the scale is when you felt completely unhappy, annoyed, unsatis- other end of the scale, you felt completely relaxed, calm, sluggish,
fied, melancholic, despaired, bored. You can indicate feeling com- dull, sleepy, unaroused. You can indicate you felt completely by
pletely unhappy by moving the bar to the bottom of the scale moving the bar to the bottom of the scale (demonstrated on the
(demonstrated on the continuous scale). The scale also allows you continuous scale). As with the happy-unhappy scale, you can
to describe intermediate feelings of pleasure, by placing the bar in represent intermediate levels by moving the bar to any other point
the middle of the range. If you felt completely neutral, neither on the scale. If you are not at all excited nor at all calm, move the
happy nor unhappy, place the bar on the narrowest point in the bar to the middle of the scale.

(Appendices continue)

Appendix C
Two Possible Interpretations of c in Discrimination Tasks

In this appendix, we explain the two possible interpretations of

d the report threshold (c). In SDT, c is given in terms of distance
Weak signal ’ Strong signal
from the center of the distribution on the left.
We demonstrate the possible interpretations via an individual
differences example showing that c was relatively high among one
C group of participants. In terms of the SDT model, these partici-
pants required high levels of emotional evidence of negative
valence to report a highly negative feeling. This result may indi-
Mild reportable feeling Intense reportable feeling
Emoonal evidence cate one of the following: It may indicate that avoiding attending
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to emotion is achieved, in part, by setting such a high criterion that

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d Strong signal
Weak signal prevents feeling. Alternatively, some people may have a generally

low level of emotional evidence. For them, both high-negative and
low-negative pictures generate low levels of emotional evidence
(note that discrimination between them is not necessarily harmed).
C Such a general shift in the emotional evidence would be reflected
in a shift in criterion, because of the fact that the positioning of the
report threshold (c) is defined relative to the positioning of the two
Mild reportable feeling Intense reportable feeling
Emoonal evidence Gaussians (see Figure 12 for an explanation).
Figure 12. Changes in the general level of emotional evidence are reflected
as changes in the report threshold (c). Upper panel: emotional evidence
continuum, in which the criterion is located close to the indifference point
(where the Gaussian distributions cross each other). The lower figure depicts
a situation with the same absolute positioning of the criterion along the
emotional evidence continuum is identical to that in the upper panel. None- Received June 3, 2015
theless, because both Gaussian distributions have shifted to the left (indicating less Revision received November 7, 2016
emotional evidence) in the lower figure, the positioning of the criterion relative to
Accepted February 4, 2017 䡲
the distributions (which is how c is defined) now indicates a high criterion.