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This is the final published version of the manuscript from the journal Collabra: Psychology, 2019, 5 (1): 53

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Social information, including faces and human bodies, holds special status in visual perception generally, and in visual processing of complex arrays such as real-world scenes specifically. To date, unbalanced representation of social compared with nonsocial information in affective stimulus sets has limited the clear determination of effects as attributable to, or independent of, social content. We present the Complex Affective Scene Set (COMPASS), a set of 150 social and 150 nonsocial naturalistic affective scenes that are balanced across valence and arousal dimensions. Participants (n = 847) rated valence and arousal for each scene. The normative ratings for the 300 images together, and separately by social content, show the canonical boomerang shape that confirms coverage of much of the affective circumplex. COMPASS adds uniquely to existing visual stimulus sets by balancing social content across affect dimensions, thereby eliminating a potentially major confound across affect categories (i.e., combinations of valence and arousal). The robust special status of social information persisted even after balancing of affect categories and was observed in slower rating response times for social versus nonsocial stimuli. The COMPASS images also match the complexity of real-world environments by incorporating stimulus competition within each scene. Together, these attributes facilitate the use of the stimulus set in particular for disambiguating the effects of affect and social content for a range of research questions and populations.

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