Lights … action: Comparison of trauma films for use in the trauma film paradigm

Inna Arnaudova, Muriel A. Hagenaars*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Affective films are often used in emotion research and negative films are frequently used as an analogue for trauma (trauma film paradigm). However, different films are used with possibly distinct consequences. We aimed to investigate specific effects of four negative films covering distinct themes (physical, sexual, traffic and food), and tested neutral and positive films with matching content. Self-reported emotional responses and heart rate during the films were examined (immediate responses) as well as intrusions of the films in the subsequent week (delayed responses). Within each theme, negative films were rated as more unpleasant than the positive and neutral counterparts. They also evoked more negative emotions and more intrusive memories. Across themes, the four negative films did not differ in terms of valence and arousal, but clearly differed on immediate (e.g., disgust, embarrassment, heart rate) and delayed (intrusions) effects. Thus, we urge researchers to carefully select negative films for their studies, as different films seem to evoke distinct emotional responses. In addition, using positive films within the same themes is recommended in order to control for effects of arousal. In general, the specific film material should be considered when comparing effects across studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Heart rate
  • Intrusions
  • Memory
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Trauma film
  • Trauma film paradigm


Dive into the research topics of 'Lights … action: Comparison of trauma films for use in the trauma film paradigm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this