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Visual Representation and the Prediction of Emotion
Unformatted Document Text:  6 In addition to recall, studies have also demonstrated that emotional content of images in news can affect viewers’ perceptions of issues. Aust and Zillman (1996) found that when a news segment exemplified a social problem with a victim and when the victim was visibly distressed, people perceived the problem as being more severe and more likely to present a threat to them personally than when there was no exemplification of this kind. This discussion of the mechanisms and functions of emotion-laden content begs the question: What makes visual stimuli emotionally stimulating? Most studies involving the effects of emotion do not delineate what characteristics of the content result in emotional responses, a fact that makes studies difficult to replicate and emotional reactions hard to predict. As Zillman, Gibson and Sargent argue (1999), “despite the plausibility that the causal attribution of effects to ubiquitous displays of ‘compelling’ images may have historical contexts, acceptable proof of such image effects is wanting. Moreover, it has remained rather unclear what it is that makes an image compelling. Compellingness is usually granted in retrospect (i.e. after an image is thought to have generated a dramatic effect). The concept thus tends to be circularly applied rather than rely on and implicate particular image properties” (208). The purpose of this study is to begin to name some of those illusive properties. Lang, _ hman, and Vaitl (1988) created a set of images called the International Affective Picture System (LAPS) to use as stimuli in studies investigating the effects of emotional arousal. The researchers showed numerous people a series of photographs ranging from the innocuous to the extremely

Authors: Sherr, Susan.
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6
In addition to recall, studies have also demonstrated that emotional content
of images in news can affect viewers’ perceptions of issues. Aust and Zillman
(1996) found that when a news segment exemplified a social problem with a
victim and when the victim was visibly distressed, people perceived the problem
as being more severe and more likely to present a threat to them personally than
when there was no exemplification of this kind.
This discussion of the mechanisms and functions of emotion-laden content
begs the question: What makes visual stimuli emotionally stimulating? Most
studies involving the effects of emotion do not delineate what characteristics of
the content result in emotional responses, a fact that makes studies difficult to
replicate and emotional reactions hard to predict. As Zillman, Gibson and Sargent
argue (1999), “despite the plausibility that the causal attribution of effects to
ubiquitous displays of ‘compelling’ images may have historical contexts,
acceptable proof of such image effects is wanting. Moreover, it has remained
rather unclear what it is that makes an image compelling. Compellingness is
usually granted in retrospect (i.e. after an image is thought to have generated a
dramatic effect). The concept thus tends to be circularly applied rather than rely
on and implicate particular image properties” (208). The purpose of this study is
to begin to name some of those illusive properties.
Lang,
_
hman, and Vaitl (1988) created a set of images called the
International Affective Picture System (LAPS) to use as stimuli in studies
investigating the effects of emotional arousal. The researchers showed numerous
people a series of photographs ranging from the innocuous to the extremely


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