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Emotion. 2014 Dec;14(6):1087-101. doi: 10.1037/a0037696. Epub 2014 Aug 25.

Spending one's time: the hedonic principle in ad libitum viewing of pictures.

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Department of Psychology, University of Haifa.
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.
Department of Psychology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The hedonic principle maintains that humans strive to maximize pleasant feelings and avoid unpleasant feelings. Surprisingly, and contrary to hedonic logic, previous experiments have demonstrated a relationship between picture viewing time and arousal (activation) but not with valence (pleasure vs. displeasure), suggesting that arousal rather than the hedonic principle accounts for how individuals choose to spend their time. In 2 experiments we investigated the arousal and hedonic principles underlying viewing time behavior while controlling for familiarity with stimuli, picture complexity, and demand characteristics. Under ad libitum conditions of picture viewing, we found strong relationships between viewing time, valence, and facial corrugator electomyographic (EMG) activity with familiar but not novel pictures. Viewing time of novel stimuli was largely associated with arousal and visual complexity. We conclude that only after initial information about the stimulus is gathered, where we choose to spend our time is guided by the hedonic principle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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