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Concept: Affect theory


Epidemiological evidence suggests that consumption of flavonoids (usually via fruits and vegetables) is associated with decreased risk of developing depression. One plausible explanation for this association is the well-documented beneficial effects of flavonoids on executive function (EF). Impaired EF is linked to cognitive processes (e.g., rumination) that maintain depression and low mood; therefore, improved EF may reduce depressionogenic cognitive processes and improve mood. Study 1: 21 young adults (18-21 years old) consumed a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink and a matched placebo in a counterbalanced cross-over design. Study 2: 50 children (7-10 years old) were randomly assigned to a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink or a matched placebo. In both studies, participants and researchers were blind to the experimental condition, and mood was assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule before and 2 h after consumption of the drinks. In both studies, the blueberry intervention increased positive affect (significant drink by session interaction) but had no effect on negative affect. This observed effect of flavonoids on positive affect in two independent samples is of potential practical value in improving public health. If the effect of flavonoids on positive affect is replicated, further investigation will be needed to identify the mechanisms that link flavonoid interventions with improved positive mood.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Epidemiology, Improve, Effect, Affect, Emotion, Affect theory


Emotional complexity has been regarded as one correlate of adaptive emotion regulation in adulthood. One novel and potentially valuable approach to operationalizing emotional complexity is to use reports of emotions obtained repeatedly in real time, which can generate a number of potential time-based indicators of emotional complexity. It is not known, however, how these indicators relate to each other, to other measures of affective complexity, such as those derived from a cognitive-developmental view of emotional complexity, or to measures of adaptive functioning, such as well-being. A sample of 109 adults, aged 23 to 90 years, participated in an experience-sampling study and reported their negative and positive affect five times a day for one week. Based on these reports, we calculated nine different time-based indicators potentially reflecting emotional complexity. Analyses showed three major findings: First, the indicators showed a diverse pattern of interrelations suggestive of four distinct components of emotional complexity. Second, age was generally not related to time-based indicators of emotional complexity; however, older adults showed overall low variability in negative affect. Third, time-based indicators of emotional complexity were either unrelated or inversely related to measures of adaptive functioning; that is, these measures tended to predict a less adaptive profile, such as lower subjective and psychological well-being. In sum, time-based indicators of emotional complexity displayed a more complex and less beneficial picture than originally thought. In particular, variability in negative affect seems to indicate suboptimal adjustments. Future research would benefit from collecting empirical data for the interrelations and correlates of time-based indicators of emotional complexity in different contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Psychology, Affect, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Feeling, Affect display, Affect theory, Affect measures


Rats initially fear humans which can increase stress and impact study results. Additionally, studying positive affective states in rats has proved challenging. Rat tickling is a promising habituation technique that can also be used to model and measure positive affect. However, current studies use a variety of methods to achieve differential results. Our objective was to systematically identify, summarize, and evaluate the research on tickling in rats to provide direction for future investigation. Our specific aims were to summarize current methods used in tickling experiments, outcomes from tickling, and moderating factors.

Concepts: Affect, Rat, Study skills, Cultural studies, Affect display, Brown rat, Affect theory, Affective computing


The rewarding sensation of touch in affiliative interactions is hypothesized to be underpinned by a specialized system of nerve fibers called C-Tactile afferents (CTs), which respond optimally to slowly moving, gentle touch, typical of a caress. However, empirical evidence to support the theory that CTs encode socially relevant, rewarding tactile information in humans is currently limited. While in healthy participants, touch applied at CT optimal velocities (1-10cm/sec) is reliably rated as subjectively pleasant, neuronopathy patients lacking large myelinated afferents, but with intact C-fibres, report that the conscious sensation elicited by stimulation of CTs is rather vague. Given this weak perceptual impact the value of self-report measures for assessing the specific affective value of CT activating touch appears limited. Therefore, we combined subjective ratings of touch pleasantness with implicit measures of affective state (facial electromyography) and autonomic arousal (heart rate) to determine whether CT activation carries a positive affective value. We recorded the activity of two key emotion-relevant facial muscle sites (zygomaticus major-smile muscle, positive affect & corrugator supercilii-frown muscle, negative affect) while participants evaluated the pleasantness of experimenter administered stroking touch, delivered using a soft brush, at two velocities (CT optimal 3cm/sec & CT non-optimal 30cm/sec), on two skin sites (CT innervated forearm & non-CT innervated palm). On both sites, 3cm/sec stroking touch was rated as more pleasant and produced greater heart rate deceleration than 30cm/sec stimulation. However, neither self-report ratings nor heart rate responses discriminated stimulation on the CT innervated arm from stroking of the non-CT innervated palm. In contrast, significantly greater activation of the zygomaticus major (smiling muscle) was seen specifically to CT optimal, 3cm/sec, stroking on the forearm in comparison to all other stimuli. These results offer the first empirical evidence in humans that tactile stimulation that optimally activates CTs carries a positive affective valence that can be measured implicitly.

Concepts: Nervous system, Muscle, Affect, Nerve, Emotion, Affect display, Affect theory, Smile


The present research examined longitudinal relations of the Big Five personality traits with three core aspects of subjective well-being: life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect.

Concepts: Present, Psychology, Personality psychology, English-language films, Emotion, Neuroticism, Big Five personality traits, Affect theory


Background. The affective profiles model categorizes individuals as self-fulfilling (high positive affect, low negative affect), high affective (high positive affect, high negative affect), low affective (low positive affect, low negative affect), and self-destructive (low positive affect, high negative affect). The model has been used extensively among Swedes to discern differences between profiles regarding happiness, depression, and also life satisfaction. The aim of the present study was to investigate such differences in a sample of residents of the USA. The study also investigated differences between profiles with regard to happiness-increasing strategies. Methods. In Study I, 900 participants reported affect (Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule; PANAS) and happiness (Happiness-Depression Scale). In Study II, 500 participants self-reported affect (PANAS), life satisfaction (Satisfaction With Life Scale), and how often they used specific strategies to increase their own happiness (Happiness-Increasing Strategies Scales). Results. The results showed that, compared to the other profiles, self-fulfilling individuals were less depressed, happier, and more satisfied with their lives. Nevertheless, self-destructive individuals were more depressed, unhappier, and less satisfied than all other profiles. The self-fulfilling individuals tended to use strategies related to agentic (e.g., instrumental goal-pursuit), communal (e.g., social affiliation), and spiritual (e.g., religion) values when pursuing happiness. Conclusion. These differences suggest that promoting positive emotions can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state as well as increasing life satisfaction. Moreover, the present study shows that pursuing happiness through strategies guided by agency, communion, and spirituality is related to a self-fulfilling experience described as high positive affect and low negative affect.

Concepts: Affect, Emotion, Affective neuroscience, Affect display, Affect theory, Affect measures


Many theories of moral behavior assume that unethical behavior triggers negative affect. In this article, we challenge this assumption and demonstrate that unethical behavior can trigger positive affect, which we term a “cheater’s high.” Across 6 studies, we find that even though individuals predict they will feel guilty and have increased levels of negative affect after engaging in unethical behavior (Studies 1a and 1b), individuals who cheat on different problem-solving tasks consistently experience more positive affect than those who do not (Studies 2-5). We find that this heightened positive affect does not depend on self-selection (Studies 3 and 4), and it is not due to the accrual of undeserved financial rewards (Study 4). Cheating is associated with feelings of self-satisfaction, and the boost in positive affect from cheating persists even when prospects for self-deception about unethical behavior are reduced (Study 5). Our results have important implications for models of ethical decision making, moral behavior, and self-regulatory theory. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Affect, Emotion, Morality, All rights reserved, Feeling, Affect display, Affect theory, Cheating


OBJECTIVES: Prior research has focused on the association between negative affect and eating behaviour, often utilizing laboratory or cross-sectional study designs. These studies have inherent limitations, and the association between positive affect and eating behaviour remains relatively unexplored. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the bidirectional relationships between daily negative and positive affective experiences and food consumption in a naturalistic setting among healthy young adults. DESIGN: Daily diary study across 21 days (microlongitudinal, correlational design). METHODS: A total of 281 young adults with a mean age of 19.9 (±1.2) years completed an Internet-based daily diary for 21 consecutive days. Each day they reported their negative and positive affect, and their consumption of five specific foods. Hierarchical linear modelling was used to test same-day associations between daily affect and food consumption, and next-day (lagged) associations to determine directionality. Moderating effects of BMI and gender were also examined in exploratory analyses. RESULTS: Analyses of same-day within-person associations revealed that on days when young adults experienced greater positive affect, they reported eating more servings of fruit (p = .002) and vegetables (p < .001). Results of lagged analysis showed that fruits and vegetables predicted improvements in positive affect the next day, suggesting that healthy foods were driving affective experiences and not vice versa. Meaningful changes in positive affect were observed with the daily consumption of approximately 7-8 servings of fruit or vegetables. CONCLUSIONS: Eating fruit and vegetables may promote emotional well-being among healthy young adults. STATEMENT OF CONTRIBUTION: What is already known on this subject? Laboratory and cross-sectional studies have found a strong link between experiences of negative affect and food consumption. These studies generally show that people eat more food and less healthy food when experiencing negative affect; however, there is less evidence of this association in a natural setting. Moreover, the association between positive affect and eating remains relatively unexplored. Some studies have found stronger links between negative affect and unhealthy food consumption among women and individuals with higher BMI. Conversely, the foods people eat may influence their affective experiences. Cross-sectional research has shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of depression and anxiety, but it is not known whether healthy food consumption may also influence affective experiences on a day-to-day basis. What does this study add? Using online daily diaries for three weeks, we found strong relationships between daily positive affect and fruit and vegetable consumption. Lagged analyses showed that fruit and vegetable consumption predicted improvements in positive affect the next day, and not vice versa. Gender and BMI were not major factors in these associations. Fruit and vegetable consumption may promote feelings of well-being among healthy young adults.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nutrition, Cross-sectional study, Eating, Food, Fruit, Cross-sectional analysis, Affect theory


Social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning. Despite suggestions that individuals with high levels of social anxiety would benefit from PA enhancement, the feasibility of doing so remains an unanswered question. Accordingly, in the current study, individuals with high levels of social anxiety (N = 142) were randomly assigned to conditions designed to enhance PA (Kind Acts), reduce negative affect (NA; Behavioral Experiments), or a neutral control (Activity Monitoring). All participants engaged in the required activities for 4 weeks and completed prepost questionnaires measuring mood and social goals, as well as weekly email ratings of mood, anxiety, and social activities. Both the prepost and weekly mood ratings revealed that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA that were sustained over the 4 weeks of the study. No significant changes in PA were observed in the other conditions. The increase in hedonic functioning was not due to differential compliance, frequency of social activities, or an indirect effect of NA reduction. In addition, participants who engaged in kind acts displayed an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance goals, whereas no significant changes in these variables were observed in the other conditions. This study is the first to demonstrate that positive affect can be increased in individuals with high levels of social anxiety and that PA enhancement strategies may result in wider social benefits. The role of PA in producing those benefits requires further study. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Avoidant personality disorder, Fear, All rights reserved, Affect theory


In this research, we showed that solitude generally has a deactivation effect on people’s affective experiences, decreasing both positive and negative high-arousal affects. In Study 1, we found that the deactivation effect occurred when people were alone, but not when they were with another person. Study 2 showed that this deactivation effect did not depend on whether or not the person was engaged in an activity such as reading when alone. In Study 3, high-arousal positive affect did not drop in a solitude condition in which participants specifically engaged in positive thinking or when they actively chose what to think about. Finally, in Study 4, we found that solitude could lead to relaxation and reduced stress when individuals actively chose to be alone. This research thus shed light on solitude effects in the past literature, and on people’s experiences when alone and the different factors that moderate these effects.

Concepts: Person, Effect, Affect, Thought, Effects unit, Affect display, Affect theory