Positive affectivity

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Positive affectivity (PA) is a human characteristic that describes how much people experience positive affects (sensations, emotions, sentiments); and as a consequence how they interact with others and with their surroundings.[1]

People with high positive affectivity are typically enthusiastic, energetic, confident, active, and alert. Research has linked positive affectivity with an increase in longevity, better sleep, and a decrease in stress hormones.[2][3] People with a high positive affectivity have healthier coping styles, more positive self-qualities, and are more goal oriented.[4][3] Positive affectivity also promotes an open-minded attitude, sociability, and helpfulness.[1]

Those having low levels of positive affectivity (and high levels of negative affectivity) are characterized by sadness, lethargy, distress, and un-pleasurable engagement (see negative affectivity). Low levels of positive affect are correlated with social anxiety and depression, due to decreased levels of dopamine.[5]


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.[6] Trait PA roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factors of extraversion;[7][8] however, this construct is also influenced by interpersonal components.[6]


Overall, positive affect results in a more positive outlook, increases problem solving skills, increases social skills, increases activity and projects, and can play a role in motor function.[1][9]

Positive affectivity is an integral part of everyday life.[10] 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[11][12] 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.[7][13][14][15] PA also strongly relates to life satisfaction.[16] 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.[7][8] 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.[17][10]

PA may influence the relationships between variables in organizational research.[18][19] PA increases attentional focus and behavioral repertoire, and these enhanced personal resources can help 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,[2] supporting continued efforts to replenish resources depleted by stress.[20][21] Its buffering functions provide a useful antidote to the problems associated with negative emotions and ill health due to stress,[12] as PA reduces allostatic load.[2] Likewise, happy people are better at coping. McCrae and Costa[22] concluded that PA was associated with more mature coping efforts.

Negative affectivity[edit]

Positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA) are nearly independent of each other;[6] it is possible for a person to 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).[6] Positive affectivity may influence an individual's choices in general, particularly their responses to questionnaires.


Studies are finding there is a relationship between dopamine release and positive affect in cognitive abilities.[1] For instance, when dopamine levels are low, positive affect can stimulate the release of more dopamine, temporarily increasing cognitive, motor, and emotional processing. Stimulating dopamine release influences several cognitive functions. First, an increase in dopamine in the nigrostriatal system can temporarily relieve motor or cognitive dysfunction, due to Parkinson's.

An increase in dopamine release also influences the mesocorticolimbic system through the VTA cells, increasing mood and open mindedness in older adults. Positive affect also stimulates dopamine production in the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate facilities, which help with processing working memory and executive attention. Lastly, PA indirectly improves memory consolidation in the hippocampus, by increasing acetylcholine release from an increase in dopamine.[1]

Business management[edit]

Positive affectivity is a managerial and organizational behavior tool used to create positive environments in the workplace. Through the use of PA, the manager can induce a positive employee experience and culture. "Since affectivity is related to the employee experiences, we expect the employees with high PA to feel considerable organizational support. Their optimism and confidence also helps them discuss their views in a manner characterized by constructive controversy with their supervisor, so that problems are solved and their positive feelings confirmed".[23] Positive Affectivity allows creative problem solving to flourish in an environment where employees are not intimidated to approach managers, therefore employees believe they are playing a key role in the organization in coming forward with solutions. The goal is to maximize PA and minimize any negative affectivity circulating in the business. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger, stress, hostility, sadness, and guilt, increase the predictability of workplace deviance,[24] and therefore reduce the productivity of the business.


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.[6] 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).[6]
  • Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist – Revised (MAACL-R): Measures PA according to the DES scale and to an additional scale assessing thrill-seeking behavior (i.e., how daring or adventurous the person is).[6]
  • Profile of Mood States (POMS): Uses vigor scale to assess the domain of PA.[6]
  • Expanded Form of the Positive 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).[6]
  • International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short-Form (I-PANAS-SF): This 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.[25] Internal consistency reliability for the 5-item PA scale is reported to range between .72 and .78.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ashby, F. G.; Isen, A. M.; Turken, A. U. (1999). "A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition". Psychological Review. 106 (3): 529–550. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.106.3.529. PMID 10467897.
  2. ^ a b c Schenk, H.M.; et al. (2017). "Associations of Positive Affect and Negative Affect With Allostatic Load: A Lifelines Cohort Study" (PDF). Psychosomatic Medicine. 80 (2): 160–166. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000546. PMID 29215457. S2CID 20121114.
  3. ^ a b Paterson, T. S.; Yeung, S. E.; Thornton, W. L. (2015). "Positive affect predicts everyday problem-solving ability in older adults". Aging & Mental Health. 20 (8): 871–879. doi:10.1080/13607863.2015.1043619. PMID 26033072. S2CID 4058593.
  4. ^ Li, Y. I.; Starr, L. R.; Hershenberg, R. (2017). "Responses to positive affect in daily life: positive rumination and dampening moderate the association between daily events and depressive symptoms". Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 39 (3): 412–425. doi:10.1007/s10862-017-9593-y. S2CID 151923179.
  5. ^ Cohen, Jonah N.; et al. (2017). "Positive and negative affect as links between social anxiety and depression: predicting concurrent and prospective mood symptoms in unipolar and bipolar mood disorders". Behavior Therapy. 48 (6): 820–833. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2017.07.003. PMC 6028186. PMID 29029678.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Naragon, K., & Watson, D. (2009). "Positive affectivity". In S. Lopez (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology (pp. 707–711). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
  7. ^ a b c Watson, David; Clark, Lee Anna (1984). "Negative Affectivity: The Disposition to Experience Aversive Emotional States". Psychological Bulletin. 96 (3): 465–490. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.96.3.465. PMID 6393179.
  8. ^ a b 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.
  9. ^ Nelis, S.; Bastin, M.; Raes, F.; Mezulis, A.; Bijttebier, P. (2016). "Trait affectivity and response styles to positive affect: Negative affectivity relates to dampening and positive affectivity relates to enhancing". Personality and Individual Differences. 96: 148–154. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.02.087.
  10. ^ a b Houben, M.; et al. (2015). "The relation between short-term emotion dynamics and psychological well-being: A meta-analysis" (PDF). Psychological Bulletin. 141 (4): 901–930. doi:10.1037/a0038822. PMID 25822133.
  11. ^ Fredrickson, Barbara L. (September 1998). "What Good Are Positive Emotions?". Review of General Psychology. 2 (3): 300–319. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.2.3.300. PMC 3156001. PMID 21850154.
  12. ^ a b Fredrickson, Barbara L. (March 2001). "The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions". American Psychologist. 56 (3): 218–226. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.56.3.218. PMC 3122271. PMID 11315248.
  13. ^ Beiser, Morton (December 1974). "Components and Correlates of Mental Well-Being". Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 15 (4): 320–327. doi:10.2307/2137092. JSTOR 2137092. PMID 4455735.
  14. ^ Bradburn, N. M. (1969). "The structure of psychological well-being". Chicago: Aldine.
  15. ^ Watson, David; Clark, Lee Anna; Tellegen, Auke (June 1988). "Development and Validation of Brief Measures of Positive and Negative Affect: The PANAS Scales". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54 (6): 1063–1070. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063. PMID 3397865. S2CID 7679194.
  16. ^ Judge, Timothy A.; Locke, Edwin A.; Durham, Cathy C.; Kluger, Avraham N. (February 1998). "Dispositional Effects on Job and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Core Evaluations". Journal of Applied Psychology. 83 (1): 17–34. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.83.1.17. PMID 9494439.
  17. ^ DeNeve, Kristina M.; Cooper, Harris (September 1998). "The Happy Personality: A Meta-Analysis of 137 Personality Traits and Subjective Well-Being". Psychological Bulletin. 124 (2): 197–229. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.124.2.197. PMID 9747186.
  18. ^ Jex, Steve M.; Spector, Paul E. (1996). "The impact of negative affectivity on stressor-strain relations: A replication and extension". Work & Stress. 10 (1): 36–45. doi:10.1080/02678379608256783.
  19. ^ Williams, Larry J.; Anderson, Stella E. (June 1994). "An Alternative Approach to Method Effects by Using Latent-Variable Models: Applications in Organizational Behavior Research". Journal of Applied Psychology. 79 (3): 323–331. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.79.3.323.
  20. ^ Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and Adaptation. NY: Oxford Univ. Press.
  21. ^ Khosla, M. (2006 c). Finding benefit in adversity. Manuscript in press.
  22. ^ McCrae, Robert R.; Costa, Paul T. Jr. (June 1986). "Personality, coping, and coping effectiveness in an adult sample". Journal of Personality. 54 (2): 385–404. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1986.tb00401.x.
  23. ^ Hui, Chun; Wong, Alfred; Tjosvold, Dean. "Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (2007), 80, 735–751". Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology: 738.
  24. ^ Lee; Kibeom; Allen, Natalie J (2002). "Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Workplace Deviance: The Role of Affect and Cognitions". Journal of Applied Psychology. 87 (1): 131–142. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.87.1.131. PMID 11916207.
  25. ^ a b Thompson, E.R. (2007). "Development and validation of an internationally reliable short-form of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS)" (PDF). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 38 (2): 227–242. doi:10.1177/0022022106297301. S2CID 145498269.[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]