Multiple Arousal Theory and Daily-Life Electrodermal Activity Asymmetry

Rosalind W. Picard, Szymon Fedor, Yadid Ayzenberg


Using “big data” from sensors worn continuously outside the lab, researchers have observed patterns of objective physiology that challenge some of the long-standing theoretical concepts of emotion and its measurement. One challenge is that emotional arousal, when measured as sympathetic nervous system activation through electrodermal activity, can sometimes differ significantly across the two halves of the upper body. We show that traditional measures on only one side may lead to misjudgment of arousal. This article presents daily life and controlled study data, as well as existing evidence from neuroscience, supporting the influence of multiple emotional substrates in the brain causing innervation on different sides of the body. We describe how a theory of multiple arousals explains the asymmetric EDA findings.

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