Psychology, Department of


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Published in final edited form as: Soc Psychol Personal Sci. 2021 September 1; 12(7): 1392–1401. doi:10.1177/1948550620972296.


Author manuscript Soc Psychol Personal Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2021 October 28.


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

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