Is heart rate variability (HRV) an adequate tool for evaluating human emotions? - A focus on the use of the International Affective Picture System (IAPS)

Psychiatry Res. 2017 May;251:192-196. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.02.025. Epub 2017 Feb 11.


Because human emotion varies greatly among individuals and is a qualitative factor, measuring it with any degree of accuracy is very difficult. Heart rate variability (HRV), which is used in evaluations of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), is used to evaluate human emotions. This study examines the validity of HRV as a tool to evaluate emotions using the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). For experimentation, five photos were selected for each of the categories of "happy," "unhappy", and "neutral" from among the images provided by the IAPS. The subjects were required to complete the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) after being shown each picture. We extracted the R-R interval (RRI) value of each photo from the PPG, as well as the valence, arousal, and dominance value of each photo from the SAM to analyze their correlation. As results, there was significant positive correlation with valence and significant negative correlation with dominance in the photo simulation associated with the "unhappy" emotion, only when the arousal value exceeded a critical value. Therefore, the findings of this study suggest that it is possible to use an HRV-based evaluation only when a high level of emotion is induced by visual stimulation.

Keywords: Correlation; Emotion; R-R interval; Self-Assessment Manikin; Visual stimulation.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self-Assessment
  • Young Adult