Affective valence, stimulus attributes, and P300: color vs. black/white and normal vs. scrambled images

Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Jan;71(1):17-24. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.07.016. Epub 2008 Jul 29.


Pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) were selected to manipulate affective valence (unpleasant, neutral, pleasant) while keeping arousal level the same. The pictures were presented in an oddball paradigm, with a visual pattern used as the standard stimulus. Subjects pressed a button whenever a target was detected. Experiment 1 presented normal pictures in color and black/white. Control stimuli were constructed for both the color and black/white conditions by randomly rearranging 1 cm square fragments of each original picture to produce a "scrambled" image. Experiment 2 presented the same normal color pictures with large, medium, and small scrambled condition (2, 1, and 0.5 cm squares). The P300 event-related brain potential demonstrated larger amplitudes over frontal areas for positive compared to negative or neutral images for normal color pictures in both experiments. Attenuated and nonsignificant valence effects were obtained for black/white images. Scrambled stimuli in each study yielded no valence effects but demonstrated typical P300 topography that increased from frontal to parietal areas. The findings suggest that P300 amplitude is sensitive to affective picture valence in the absence of stimulus arousal differences, and that stimulus color contributes to ERP valence effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300 / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult