International Affective Picture System

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The International Affective Picture System (IAPS) is a database of pictures designed to provide a standardized set of pictures for studying emotion and attention [1] that has been widely used in psychological research.[2] The IAPS was developed by the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Emotion and Attention at the University of Florida. In 2005, the IAPS comprised 956 color photographs ranging from everyday objects and scenes − such as household furniture and landscapes − to extremely rare or exciting scenes − such as mutilated bodies and erotic nudes.

Normative Ratings[edit]

It is the essential property of the IAPS that the stimulus set is accompanied by a detailed list of average ratings of the emotions elicited by each picture. This shall enable other researcher to select stimuli eliciting a specific range of emotions for their experiments when using the IAPS. The process of establishing such average ratings for a stimulus set is also referred to as standardization by psychologists.

The normative rating procedure for the IAPS is based on the assumption that emotional assessments can be accounted for by the three dimensions valence, arousal and dominance.[3] Thus, participants taking part in the studies that are conducted to standardize the IAPS are asked to rate how pleasant/unpleasant, how calm/excited and how controlled/in-control they felt when looking at each picture. A graphic rating scale, the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM),[4] is used for this rating procedure.

Original norms[edit]

The official normative ratings for the IAPS pictures were obtained from a sample of 100 college students (50 women, 50 men, presumably predominantly US-American) who each rated 16 sets of 60 pictures. The rating was carried out in groups using paper-and-pencil versions of the SAMs. Pictures were presented for 6 seconds each; 15 seconds were given to rate the picture. /dominance.[1] Average valence, arousal and dominance ratings are available for the overall sample, men, and women.

Normative ratings were also obtained from children ages 7–9 years, 10-12, and 13-14. The rating procedure for children was mildly adapted; among other modifications, children were tested in classrooms, given instructions in a more child-friendly language, and they were allotted 20 seconds to rate each picture instead of 15.[1]

Norms from further studies[edit]

Researchers from other institutes than the National Institute of Mental Health have also conducted studies to establish normative ratings for the IAPS in other than the US-American culture or the other than the English language, i.e. Hungarian,[5] German,[6] Portuguese,[7] Indian,[8] and Spanish[9] One of these studies also included older participants (63–77 years).[6]

Use of the IAPS pictures[edit]

IAPS pictures have been used in studies using a variety of psychophysiological measurements such as fMRI, [10] EEG,[11] magnetoencephalography,[12] skin conductance,[13] heart rate,[14] and electromyography.[15]

The IAPS has also been used in the psychology laboratory to experimentally manipulate anxiety and induce negative affect, enabling researchers to investigate the impacts of negative affect on cognitive performance.[16][17]


To maintain novelty and efficacy of the stimulus set, the IAPS images themselves are typically not shown in any media outlet or publications. The IAPS may be received and used upon request by members of recognized, degree-granting, academic, not-for-profit research or educational institutions.[18]


A group of researchers at Harvard University has published an alternative set of images that they claim to be comparable to the IAPS in 2016.[19] The OASIS image database consists of 900 images that have been rated on valence and arousal by a sample of US-Americans recruited via amazon mechanical Turk. As opposed to the IAPS, all OASIS images are in the public domain. A detailed description is provided on the first author's homepage.


  1. ^ a b c Lang, P.J., Bradley, M.M., & Cuthbert, B.N. (2008). International affective picture System (IAPS): Affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual. Technical Report A-8. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
  2. ^ Bradley, M. M. & Lang, P. J. (2007). The International Affective Picture System (IAPS) in the study of emotion and attention. In J. A. Coan and J. J. B. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of Emotion Elicitation and Assessment (pp. 29-46). Oxford University Press
  3. ^ Osgood, Charles E.; Suci, George J.; Tannenbaum, Percy H. (1957). The measurement of meaning. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  4. ^ Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., and Cuthbert, B. N. (1997). International affective picture system (IAPS): Technical manual and affective ratings.
  5. ^ Deak, A.; Csenski, L.; Revesz, G. (2010). "Hungarian ratings for the International Affective Picture System (IAPS): A cross-cultural comparison". Empirical Text and Culture Research. 4: 90–101.
  6. ^ a b Gruehn, D.; Scheibe, S (2008). "Age-related differences in valence and arousal ratings of pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS): Do ratings become more extreme with age?". Behavior Research Methods. 40: 512–521.
  7. ^ Lasaitis, C; Ribeiro, R. L.; Bueno, O. F. A. (2008). "Brazilian norms for the International Affective Picture System (IAPS): comparison of the affective ratings for new stimuli between brazilian and north-american subjects". Jornal Brasileiro de Psiquiatria. 57: 270–275. doi:10.1590/s0047-20852008000400008.
  8. ^ Lohani, M.; Gupta, R.; Srinivasan, N. (2013). "Cross-Cultural Evaluation of the International Affective Picture System on an Indian Sample". Psychological Studies. 58: 233–241. doi:10.1007/s12646-013-0196-8.
  9. ^ Dufey Dominguez, M.; Fernandez Tapia, A. M.; Troncoso, R. (2011). "Adding support to cross-cultural emotional assessment: validation of the international affective picture system in a chilean sample; un apoyo a la evaluaci´on transcultural de la emoci´on: validaci´on del international affective picture system en una muestra chilena". Universitas Psychologica Research. 10: 521–533. doi:10.11144/javeriana.upsy10-2.asce.
  10. ^ Caria, A., Sitaram, R., Veit, R., Begliomini, C., & Birbaumer, N. (2010). Volitional control of anterior insula activity modulates the response to aversive stimuli. A real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Biological psychiatry, 68(5), 425–32. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.04.020
  11. ^ Hajcak, G., & Dennis, T. A. (2009). Brain potentials during affective picture processing in children. Biological Psychology, 80(3), 333-338. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2008.11.006
  12. ^ Styliadis, C., Ioannides, A. A., Bamidis, P. D., & Papadelis, C. (2015). Distinct cerebellar lobules process arousal, valence and their interaction in parallel following a temporal hierarchy. NeuroImage, 110, 149-161.doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.006
  13. ^ D'Hondt, F., Lassonde, M., Collignon, O., Dubarry, A.-S., Robert, M., Rigoulot, S., . . . Sequeira, H. (2010). Early brain-body impact of emotional arousal. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 4(33). doi:10.3389/fnhum.2010.00033
  14. ^ Bradley, M. M., Codispoti, M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (2001). Emotion and motivation I: defensive and appetitive reactions in picture processing. Emotion, 1(3), 276.doi:10.1037//1528-3542.1.3.276
  15. ^ Baglioni, C., Lombardo, C., Bux, E., Hansen, S., Salveta, C., Biello, S., . . . Espie, C. A. (2010). Psychophysiological reactivity to sleep-related emotional stimuli in primary insomnia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(6), 467-475. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.01.008
  16. ^ Wilson, K. M., de Joux, N. R., Finkbeiner, K. M., Russell, P. N., & Helton, W. S. (2016). The effect of task-relevant and irrelevant anxiety-provoking stimuli on response inhibition. Consciousness and Cognition, 42, 358-365.doi:10.1016/j.concog.2016.04.011
  17. ^ Ossowski, U., Malinen, S., & Helton, W. S. (2011). The effects of emotional stimuli on target detection: indirect and direct resource costs. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1649-1658.doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.015
  18. ^ Bradley, Margaret M; Lang, Peter J. "IAPS request form". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  19. ^ Kurdi, Benedek; Lozano, Shayn; Banaji, Mahzarin R. (2017-04-01). "Introducing the Open Affective Standardized Image Set (OASIS)". Behavior Research Methods. 49 (2): 457–470. doi:10.3758/s13428-016-0715-3. ISSN 1554-3528. PMID 26907748.

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