International Affective Picture System (IAPs)

The International Affective Picture System (IAPS) image set contains images meant to elicit an emotional response from the research participant. Images are categorized as pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. As some of the images are categorized as unpleasant and meant to conjure disturbing or negative emotions in study participants, research using unpleasant IAPs poses a special concern to the IRB. Therefore, to best protect research participants and research staff involved with unpleasant IAPs protocols, specific measures must be taken to ensure that the risk of negative psychological consequences is minimized for all parties involved. Research protocols using pleasant or neutral IAPs do not automatically need full board review. If you are using pleasant or neutral IAPs and are unsure of the type of review you need, please consult our review guidance.

The following guidance will provide information for (1) all IAPS protocols as well as for (2) protocols using only unpleasant images:

  1. For ALL research using IAPS, the following must be included in e-protocol submissions
  • Add the following information to the IAPS consent form:
    • [If your study includes the use of IAPS, the following suggested statement should be included: “If you decide to take part in this study, you will be asked to view a variety of pictures that have been categorized to be pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant. If any of the media presented should make you feel too uncomfortable to continue with the study, you are free to immediately withdraw your participation and leave without giving up credit or payment. The content of the pictures may include (insert description of image here. Suggested wording for unpleasant IAPs is as follows: images considered objectionable, such as sexually explicit and violent pictures that may be difficult to look at). To be clear: you may immediately end your participation if any aspect of the research procedure makes you too uncomfortable to continue. Lastly, if you have any discomfort or concerns after viewing the images, you are encouraged to call the principal investigator at (insert contact information for researcher(s)) or contact (list Psychological services with contact information).”]
  • Additionally, the following information should be clearly stated in the protocol:
    • Please include the percentage of pleasant, neutral and unpleasant photographs what will be shown. For example: Subjects will be shown 25% pleasant, 50% neutral, and 25% unpleasant photographs.

2. For any research using UNPLEASANT IAPS images:

  • Please submit all IAPS research protocols that use unpleasant images for FULL BOARD REVIEW.
  • Please clearly justify why the use of unpleasant IAPS images is essential for your research and what insight you hope to gain from this method.
  • Detail all the risks associated with the research protocol clearly, and specifically state what measures will be taken to minimize all risks to research participants.
  • In section 11 of the protocol, attach an information sheet developed specifically to inform any personnel who will be involved with this study and who might be exposed to the images. This sheet should explain to lab personnel the nature of the images that will be shown along with representative samples of the images.
  • Explicitly state in the protocol how research personnel will be informed about the study and how their understanding of the nature of the images will be verified.
  • Due to the nature of the IAPs images, all research participants must be debriefed. For more information regarding debriefing, please visit the debriefing guidance section of the IRB website. A debriefing template can be downloaded here for your convenience.