What Is the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale?

The Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS) is the gold standard for measuring anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure.

Your inability to experience pleasure often manifests as a loss of interest in doing daily activities or hobbies you used to enjoy. The SHAPS test measures your ability to experience pleasure or the severity of your anhedonia based on what is called hedonic tone. Someone with a high SHAPS score would also have low hedonic tone, or reduced ability to feel pleasure.

This article provides an overview of the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale and explains how the 0–14 SHAPS scoring system works, details how results are interpreted, and more. 

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What Is the SHAPS Used For?

The Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS) was developed in the 1990s by psychiatrists Philip Snaith, Max Hamilton, and colleagues at St. James's University Hospital in Leeds, England. SHAPS is used to measure the amount of pleasure (or lack thereof) someone was able to experience in the "last few days" based on their hedonic tone.

"Hedonic" means "relating to or characterized by pleasure or pleasant sensations." In the context of the SHAPS test, hedonic tone is an index used to gauge someone's ability to experience pleasure. Hedonic tone is also referred to as hedonic capacity or hedonic responsiveness.

High hedonic tone suggests that someone has a robust capacity to feel pleasure. On the flip side, low hedonic tone indicates that someone has a reduced ability to experience pleasure and is prone to anhedonia.

Anhedonia is a hallmark of clinical depression. In addition to people with major depressive disorder (MDD) experiencing anhedonia, people with substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health concerns often lose their ability to feel pleasure.

In people who have lost interest in activities they once found enjoyable for whatever reason, the 14-item SHAPS questionnaire is used to quantify anhedonia severity according to hedonic tone.

What Is Anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure in day-to-day life or a loss of the ability to derive pleasure from something once found pleasurable. 

SHAPS Questions and Scoring

The SHAPS questionnaire consists of 14 prompts that ask respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with statements related to experiencing pleasure over the last few days. Questions on the SHAPS test are divided into four categories:

  1. Interests and Pastimes: (e.g., "I would find pleasure in my hobbies and pastimes" or "I would be able to enjoy a beautiful landscape or view")
  2. Social Interactions: (e.g., "I would enjoy seeing other people’s smiling face" or "I would get pleasure from helping others")
  3. Sensory Experiences: (e.g., "I would enjoy a warm bath or refreshing shower" or "I would find pleasure in the scent of flowers or the smell of a fresh sea breeze")
  4. Food and Drink: (e.g., "I would be able to enjoy my favorite meal" or "I would enjoy a cup of tea or coffee or my favorite drink")

At the outset, respondents are informed that the SHAPS questionnaire is designed to measure their ability to experience pleasure in the last few days. Then, they're asked to indicate if they agree, strongly agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with each statement.

SHAPS scoring is based on assigning 1 point to each time someone disagrees or strongly disagrees with a statement and 0 points if someone agrees or strongly agrees. When scoring the SHAPS test, no distinction is made between how strongly someone agrees or disagrees with a question.

SHAPS scores range from 0 to 14. Because respondents are given 1 point each time they disagree or strongly disagree with a statement, if they express disagreement 9 times, their SHAPS score would be 9. However, if someone agreed or strongly agreed with every statement, their score would be 0. Lower SHAPS scores indicate higher levels of hedonic capacity or a lower level of anhedonia, and vice versa.

Hedonic Tone: Other Tests & Scales

Since the 1950s, food scientists have used a 9-point hedonic scale for measuring people's food preferences. Hedonic tone on this scale is ranked from "extremely dislike" to "extremely like" with "neither like or dislike" falling in the middle.

Interpreting Results

The cutoff point between normal hedonic tone and anhedonia is between 2 and 3 points. For example, if someone only disagrees with 2 statements, their SHAPS score would be two and considered "normal."

If someone disagrees with three statements, their SHAPS score would be a 3, which represents lower hedonic tone and mild anhedonia. A score of 14 would represent extremely low hedonic tone and severe anhedonia.


SHAPS is considered an accurate and reliable instrument for assessing hedonic capacity and anhedonia. Evidence-based research shows that the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale is a consistent and reliable instrument for measuring anhedonia in clinical patients (those seen in a clinic setting) and nonclinical individuals.


The Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale is the gold standard for assessing anhedonia based on respondents' "hedonic capacity" for experiencing pleasure. The 14-item SHAPS test is divided into four categories: interests/pastimes, social interactions, sensory experiences, and food/drink.

People who are able to experience lots of pleasure in their daily lives have low SHAPS scores and high hedonic tone. On the flip side, higher SHAPS scores indicate a reduced ability to experience pleasure and low hedonic tone.

A Word From Verywell

Losing your ability to feel pleasure can make day-to-day life seem like a joyless experience. If you've lost interest in hobbies you once loved or no longer derive pleasure from the simple things in life like watching a sunset or the smell of fresh-baked bread, a SHAPS test is the best way to measure the severity of your anhedonia.

The inability to experience pleasure often goes hand in hand with depression and other mental health issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorder. Regardless of what's causing your loss of ability to experience pleasure, let someone know and speak to a healthcare provider about your reduced hedonic capacity.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is hedonic tone?

    Hedonic tone, also known as hedonic capacity, is an index used to measure someone's ability to experience pleasure. Low hedonic tone reflects a reduced capacity to feel pleasure, which often goes hand in hand with anhedonia. On the flip side, high hedonic tone means that someone has a robust capacity for experiencing pleasure.

  • How do you test for anhedonia?

    Anhedonia is the inability or lessened ability to experience pleasure. Anhedonia can be assessed as part of a mental health evaluation or objectively measured. Using questionnaires like the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS) that assess someone's ability to feel pleasure. The 14-item SHAPS test is easy to administer and is considered the gold standard for measuring anhedonia. 

  • What is considered a normal SHAPS score?

    SHAPS is a 14-item questionnaire that measures someone's capacity to experience pleasure. Each question is scored with 1 point if the respondent disagrees with a statement (e.g., "In the last few days, I would be able to enjoy a beautiful landscape or view.") or 0 points if they agree. Final scores range from 0-14. Scoring 2 or less is considered a "normal" SHAPS score Scoring 3 points or more implies that the respondent has trouble experiencing pleasure and is prone to anhedonia.

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By Christopher Bergland
Christopher Bergland is a retired ultra-endurance athlete turned medical writer and science reporter.