Brightness differences influence the evaluation of affective pictures

D. Lakens, D. A. F. Fockenberg, K.P.H. Lemmens, J.R.C. Ham, C.J.H. Midden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)
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We explored the possibility of a general brightness bias: brighter pictures are evaluated more positively, while darker pictures are evaluated more negatively. In Study 1 we found that positive pictures are brighter than negative pictures in two affective picture databases (the IAPS and the GAPED). Study 2 revealed that because researchers select affective pictures on the extremity of their affective rating without controlling for brightness differences, pictures used in positive conditions of experiments were on average brighter than those used in negative conditions. Going beyond correlational support for our hypothesis, Studies 3 and 4 showed that brighter versions of neutral pictures were evaluated more positively than darker versions of the same picture. Study 5 revealed that people categorized positive words more quickly than negative words after a bright prime picture, and vice versa for negative pictures. Together, these studies provide strong support for the hypotheses that picture brightness influences evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1225-1246
Number of pages22
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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