The Trait Arousability (or Emotional Reactivity) Test & Software
Trait Arousability Defined
"Arousal" consists of a combination of a person's levels of mental
alertness and physical activity. High-information (i.e., complex,
changing, novel and/or unexpected) situations or events increase arousal
whereas low- information situations reduce arousal (Mehrabian & Russell,
1974). For instance, an unexpected present received in the mail is a
high-information event (it involves something novel, unexpected, and
possibly complex). People react to such an event with greater
concentration and greater physical activity (e.g., loud and fast speech,
gesticulation, expressive face, more bodily tension). Also, as time
passes, and they get used to the surprise gift, arousal levels gradually
drop back to "baseline" (i.e., normal) levels.
There are consistent individual differences in the patterns of arousal
response to high-information events. More "arousable" persons are
aroused more easily by high-information events and it takes them longer
to return to baseline levels of arousal. Stated otherwise, arousable
persons are more emotional (in both positive and negative ways); they
experience strong emotions more easily and, once they become emotional,
it takes them longer to get back to a normal, unemotional state.
Stimulus Screening is the converse of Trait Arousability. More arousable
persons are nonscreeners and less arousable persons are screeners. For
details on the relationships between Screening and Arousability, please
see Mehrabian (1977a, 1977b, 1995a).
Software for Administring and Scoring the Trait Arousability Scale (TAS)
Software for administering, scoring, and interpreting the Trait Arousability Scale is available within a larger package of software that includes all three PAD (Pleasure, Dominance, Arousability) scales. The software runs on IBM-compatible machines and, for Trait Arousability, provides (a) total score, equivalent percentile score,
equivalent z-score, and interpretation of these scores for each person tested and (b) a database
of all three scores (total, percentile, z-score) for all individuals tested. The software is
easy to use and is password protected so that the Administrator can control access to the database
of results. In this way, individuals being tested cannot have access to the results, unless the
Administrator chooses to report such results to them.
The first Trait Arousability Scale was developed by Mehrabian (1977a).
The scale currently in use (Mehrabian, 1994) is completely new. The
present version contains 34 items and subjects report the degree of
their agreement or disagreement with each item using a 9-point
- I tend to relive exciting emotional episodes over and over again.
- Sudden changes are not emotionally moving for me.
- Administration: does not require tester to be present; can be used with individuals or groups
- Test format: questionnaire, 34 items
- Appropriate population: English fluency, ages 15 and older
- Time required for administration: approximately 10 minutes
- Scoring: hand scoring yields a single total-scale score; software provides additional percentile & z-scores
- Manual: contains complete scale, scoring directions, norms
- Background literature: includes a review article on reliability and validity by Mehrabian (1995a)
- Possible uses: Can be used as one
of three basic PAD (Pleasure, Arousability, Dominance) temperament
measures for a general assessment of temperament and/or personality.
Mehrabian (1995a) reviewed validity data on the Trait Arousability Scale (TAS). Experimental work reviewed in the preceding article has yielded the following representative findings. Persons with higher Trait Arousability Scale scores, compared with those with lower scores, are more likely to show:
Dinzeo et. al. (2004) compared Trait Arousability levels of schizophrenic patients with non-psychiatric controls. Trait Arousability scores of schizophrenics were greater than those of the controls. Trait Arousability scores and reported levels of stress in a positive speech test were significantly correlated. Also, Trait Arousability scores correlated positively with symptoms of anxiety, tension, depression, suspiciousness and unusual thoughts, and hallucinations.
- experience higher blood pressure when angered or frustrated,
- have a higher risk of heart disease,
- have a higher risk, in general, of becoming ill,
- avoid others more in crowded living situations,
- be more unhappy and work less well in crowded work-places,
- have better recall of emotional events,
- enjoy violence more,
- be more affiliative, sociable, or friendly,
- be more dependent on others,
- be more emotionally empathic -- feeling more of what others feel,
- be more sensitive and sensuous,
- be more impulsive,
- have less endurance, such as in dealing with difficult problems,
- be more anxious and/or neurotic,
- procrastinate more,
- be more suspicious and paranoid,
- suffer more from eating disorders (e.g., obesity, bulimia),
- be more suicidal.
Moosman (2002) studied therapist levels of Trait Arousability in relation to risk of therapists experiencing vicarious traumatization (because of repeated exposure to their clients' descriptions of the clients' traumatic experiences). She found that more arousabe therapists were at greater risk for vicarious traumatization.
Sparks (1989) found that more arousable individuals, according to the TAS, had more intense and enduring fright reactions to frightening mass media materials.
Dinzeo, T.J., Cohen A.S., Nienow, T.M., & Docherty, N.M. (2004). Stress and arousability in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 71 127-135.
Mehrabian, A. (1977a). A questionnaire measure of individual
differences in stimulus screening and associated differences in
arousability. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior, 1,
Mehrabian, A. (1977b). Individual differences in stimulus screening
and arousability. Journal of Personality, 45, 237-250.
Mehrabian, A. (1994). Manual for the revised Trait Arousability
(converse of the Stimulus Screening) Scale. (Available from Albert
Mehrabian, 1130 Alta Mesa Road, Monterey, CA, USA 93940).
Mehrabian, A. (1995a). Theory and evidence bearing on a scale of Trait
Arousability. Current Psychology, 14, 3-28.
Mehrabian, A. (1995b). Relationships among three general approaches to
personality description. Journal of Psychology, 129, 565-581.
Mehrabian, A., & Russell, J.A. (1974). A verbal measure of information
rate for studies in environmental psychology. Environment and
Behavior, 6, 233-252.
Moosman, J.L. (2002). Vicarious traumatization: The effects of empathy and trait arousability. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering, Vol 62(10-B), pp. 4796.
Sparks, G.G. (1989). The prevalence and intensity of fright reactions to mass media: Implications of the activation-arousal view. Communication Quarterly, 37 108-118.