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39 J. Broad & Elec. Media 313 (1995)
The Effects of Emotional Arousal and Valence on Television Viewers' Cognitive Capacity and Memory

handle is hein.journals/jbem39 and id is 323 raw text is: The Effects of Emotional Arousal
and Valence on Television Viewers'
Cognitive Capacity and Memory
Annie Lang, Kuljinder Dhillon, and Qingwen Dong
This study examines the combined effects of arousal and valence on viewers'
capacity allocation to and memory for television messages. Results show that when
valence (how positive or negative a message is) is controlled, arousing messages are
remembered better than calm messages. When arousal is controlled, positive
messages are remembered better than negative messages. Reaction time results
suggest that capacity allocation is a function of both valence and arousal. Viewers
allocate the most capacity to positive arousing messages and the least capacity to
negative arousing messages. The calm messages (both positive and negative) fall
between these two.
This study was designed to assess the independent and interactive effects of emotional
arousal and emotional valence on viewers' cognitive capacity and memory for television
messages. The use of emotional appeals and content to attract and maintain attention,
persuade, and to entertain is common. A significant amount of research has been
performed to determine whether emotional messages are more persuasive (Tan, 1986),
more attention getting (Gunter, 1987; A. Lang, Newhagen, & Reeves, 1993; Newhagen
& Reeves, 1992), or more memorable (Basil, Schooler, & Reeves, 1991; A. Lang &
Friestad, 1993; Newhagen & Reeves, 1991; A. Lang, 1991; Thorson & Friestad, 1985).
Most of this research has explored the effects of emotional valence (that is whether a
message is positive or negative) on various processing and effects variables (A. Lang,
1988; A. Lang, 1989; A. Lang and Friestad, 1993; Lang and Sumner, 1989; Reeves, A.
Lang, Thorson, & Rothschild, 1989; Reeves et al., 1991; Thorson and Christ, 1992;
Thorson and Friestad, 1985). Generally, valence is operationalized as two or more of the
following four categories: positive, negative, neutral, and mixed or poignant (both posi-
tive and negative).
The effects of message valence on memory have been studied using many different
types of messages. Examples include the study of: 1) the effects of negative images in the
news (Newhagen & Reeves, 1992); 2) the effects of positive and negative public service
Annie Lang (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1987) is Associate Professor in the Department of
Telecommunication, Indiana University Her research interests include the cognitive processing of mediated
messages. Kulijinder Dhillon is an undeigraduate student in the School of Communication, Washington State
University. Her research interests include women's roles in the media. Qingwen Dong (MA., Washington State
University 1990) is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Communication, Washington State University. His
research interests include social and psychological effects of mass media and communication across cultures and
societies. This manuscript was accepted for publication in December 1994.
01995 Broadcast Education Association  Journal of Boadcastin8 & Eteconic Media, 39, 1995, pp. 313-327.


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