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Positive Affectivity is a characteristic that describes how animals and humans experience positive emotions and interact with others and with their surroundings.[1] Those with high positive affectivity are typically enthusiastic, energetic, confident, active, and alert. Those having low levels of positive affectivity can be characterized by sadness, lethargy, distress, and un-pleasurable engagement (see negative affectivity).

Positive and negative affectivityEdit

Despite the dramatic contrast in their names, positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA) are nearly independent of each other;[1] one could be high in both PA and NA, high in one and low in the other, or low in both. Affectivity has been found to be moderately stable over time and across situations (such as working versus relaxing).[1] Positive affectivity may influence an individual's choices in general, particularly their responses to questionnaires.
Happiness, a feeling of well-being, and high levels of self-esteem are often associated with high levels of positive affectivity, but they are each influenced by negative affectivity as well.[1] Trait PA roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factors of extraversion;[2][3] however, this construct is also influenced by interpersonal components.[1]

Testing for positive affectivityEdit

Because there is not a hard-and-fast rule for defining certain levels of positive affectivity, different self-reported assessments use different scales of measure.[1] Several prominent tests are listed below; in each of these, the respondent determines the degree to which a given adjective or phrase accurately characterizes him or her.
Differential Emotions Scale (DES): A PA scale that assesses enjoyment (happy or joyful feelings) and interest (excitement, alertness, curiosity).[1]

Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist – Revised (MAACL-R): Measures PA according to the DES scale and to an additional scale assessing thrill-seeking behavior (how daring or adventurous one might be).[1]

Profile of Mood States (POMS): Uses vigor scale to assess the domain of PA.[1]

• Expanded Form of the Positives and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-X): This test uses three main scales – joviality (how cheerful, happy, or lively), self-assurance (how confident and strong), and attentiveness (alertness and concentration).[1]

The International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short-Form (I-PANAS-SF) is a brief 10-item version of the PANAS that has been developed and extensively validated for use in English with both native and non-native English speakers [4]. Internal consistency reliability for the 5-item PA scale is reported to range between .72 and .78 [4].

The effects of positive affectivityEdit

Positive affectivity is an integral part of everyday life. PA helps individuals to process emotional information accurately and efficiently, to solve problems, to make plans, and to earn achievements. The broaden-and-build theory of PA[5][6] suggests that PA broadens people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and builds their enduring personal resources.

Research shows that PA relates to different classes of variables, such as social activity and the frequency of pleasant events.[2][7][8][9] PA is also strongly related to life satisfaction.[10] The high energy and engagement, optimism, and social interest characteristic of high-PA individuals suggest that they are more likely to be satisfied with their lives.[2][3] In fact, the content similarities between these affective traits and life satisfaction have led some researchers to view both PA, NA, and life satisfaction as specific indicators of the broader construct of subjective well-being.[11]

PA may influence the relationships between variables in organizational research.[12][13] PA increases attentional focus and behavioral repertoire, and these enhanced personal resources can be used to overcome or deal with distressing situations. These resources are physical (e.g., better health), social (e.g., social support networks), and intellectual and psychological (e.g., resilience, optimism and creativity). PA provides a psychological break or respite from stress, supporting continued efforts to replenish resources depleted by stress.[14][15] Its buffering functions provide a useful antidote to the problems associated with negative emotions and ill health due to stress.[6] Likewise, happy people are better in coping. McCrae and Costa[16] concluded that PA was associated with more mature coping efforts.

Further readingEdit

Bushman, B. B., & Crowley, S. L. (2010). Is the structure of affect similar for younger and older children? Cross-sectional differences in negative and positive affectivity. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 28, 31-39. doi:10.1177/0734282909337584

Congard, A., Dauvier, B., Antoine, P., & Gilles, P. (2011). Integrating personality, daily life events and emotion: Role of anxiety and positive affect in emotion regulation dynamics. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 372-384.


Grafton, B. (2012). The ups and downs of cognitive bias: Dissociating the attentional characteristics of positive and negative affectivity. Journal Of Cognitive Psychology, 24(1), 33-53.

Lopez, S. J. (2008). Positive psychology: Exploring the best in people. (Vol. 2). Westport, CT: Praeger Publications.

Lopez, S., & Snyder, C. R. (2009). Oxford handbook of positive psychology. (2nd ed.). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Tomkins, S. S. (1962). Affect, imagery, consciousness. (Vol. I). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company, Inc.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Naragon, K., & Watson, D. (2009). Positive affectivity. In S. Lopez (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology (pp. 707-711). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience negative aversive emotional states. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465–490.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tellegen, A. (1985). Structures of mood and personality and their relevance to assessing anxiety, with an emphasis on self-report. In A. H. Tuma & J. D. Maser (Eds.), Anxiety and the Anxiety disorders, (pp. 681–706), Hilssdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thompson, E.R. (2007). Development and validation of an internationally reliable short-form of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 38 (2): 227-242.
  5. Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. The broaden and- build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, S6, 218-226.
  7. Beiser, M. (1974). Components and correlates of mental well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 15, 320-327.
  8. Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.
  9. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive affect and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, S4, 1063–70
  10. Judge, T. A., Locke, E. A., Durham, C. C., & Kluger, A. N. (1998). Dispositional effects on job and life satisfaction: the role of core evaluations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 17–34.
  11. DeNeve, K. M., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: a meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 197–229.
  12. Jex, S. M., & Spector, P. E. (1996). The impact of negative affectivity on stressor strain relations: A replication and extension. Work and Stress, 10, 36–45.
  13. Williams, L. J., & Anderson, S. E. (1994). An alternative approach to method effects by using latent-variable models: Applications in organizational behavior research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 323–331.
  14. Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaptation. NY: Oxford Univ. Press.
  15. Khosla, M.(2006 c).Finding benefit in adversity. Manuscript in press.
  16. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1986). Personality, coping and coping effectiveness in an adult sample. Journal of Personality, S4, 385- 405.

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