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Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 1065–1074 | Cite as

Taboo, emotionally valenced, and emotionally neutral word norms

  • Kristin Janschewitz
Article

Abstract

Although taboo words are used to study emotional memory and attention, no easily accessible normative data are available that compare taboo, emotionally valenced, and emotionally neutral words on the same scales. Frequency, inappropriateness, valence, arousal, and imageability ratings for taboo, emotionally valenced, and emotionally neutral words were made by 78 native-English-speaking college students from a large metropolitan university. The valenced set comprised both positive and negative words, and the emotionally neutral set comprised category-related and category-unrelated words. To account for influences of demand characteristics and personality factors on the ratings, frequency and inappropriateness measures were decomposed into raters’ personal reactions to the words versus raters’ perceptions of societal reactions to the words (personal use vs. familiarity and offensiveness vs. tabooness, respectively). Although all word sets were rated higher in familiarity and tabooness than in personal use and offensiveness, these differences were most pronounced for the taboo set. In terms of valence, the taboo set was most similar to the negative set, although it yielded higher arousal ratings than did either valenced set. Imageability for the taboo set was comparable to that of both valenced sets. The ratings of each word are presented for all participants as well as for single-sex groups. The inadequacies of the application of normative data to research that uses emotional words and the conceptualization of taboo words as a coherent category are discussed. Materials associated with this article may be accessed at the Psychonomic Society’s Archive of Norms, Stimuli, and Data, www.psychonomic.org/archive.

Keywords

Arousal Rating Neutral Word Emotional Word Word Type Negative Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Supplementary material

Janschewitz-BRM-2008.zip (204 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 340 KB.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos Angeles

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