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Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

The Semantic Differential Scale devised by Mehrabian and Russell (1974) is a widely used instrument for assessing the 3-dimensional structure of objects, events, and situations. It consists of a set of 18 bipolar adjective pairs (see Table 1) that are each rated along a 9-point scale. Factor analyses of the resulting 18 ratings generate scores on the dimensions of pleasure, arousal, and dominance. Although this method is informative, there are a number of difficulties associated with it. First, it is cumbersome to measure 18 different ratings for each stimulus presented in an experimental session. There is a heavy investment of time and effort, and results in a relatively large database that requires statistical expertise for resolution (i.e., factor analysis). Second, the reliance on a verbal rating system makes it difficult to utilize Table 1 this methodology in non-English speaking cultures (unless there has been translation and validation) and in populations which are not linguistically sophisticated (e.g., children, aphasics, etc.). To address these issues, Lang (1980; Hodes, Cook, & Lang, 1985) devised a picture-oriented instrument called the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) to directly assess the pleasure, arousal, and dominance associated in response to an object or event. SAM was originally implemented as an interactive computer program, and later was expanded to include a paper-and-pencil version for use in groups and mass screenings. Figure 1 depicts the paper-and-pencil version of SAM illustrating its nonverbal, graphic depiction of various points along each of the three major affective dimensions. S