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Negative Affect (NA) is a general dimension of subjective distress and unpleasurable engagement that subsumes a variety of aversive mood states, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear, and nervousness. Low negative affect is characterised by a state of calmness and serenity.

Watson and Clark (1984) defined negative affectivity as a mood-dispositional dimension that reflects pervasive individual differences in negative emotionality and self-concept.[1]

Negative affectivity represents an affective state dimension. Tellegen (1985)[2] has demonstrated that individuals differ in negative emotional reactivity. Trait negative affectivity roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factor of anxiety/neuroticism within the Big Five personality traits.[1][2] Research shows that negative affectivity relates to different classes of variables: Self-reported stress and (poor) coping,[1][3][4] health complaints, and frequency of unpleasant events.

On the basis of their extensive review of the literature, Watson and Clark concluded that people who express high negative affectivity view themselves and a variety of aspects of the world around them in generally negative terms. Negative affectivity may influence the relationships between variables in organizational research.

In the seminal work on negative affect arousal and white noise by Stanley S. Seidner, the findings from the study support the existence of a negative affect arousal mechanism through observations regarding the devaluation of speakers from other ethnic origins.[5] Negative affectivity is strongly related to life satisfaction. Individuals high in negative affect will exhibit, on average, higher levels of distress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, and tend to focus on the unpleasant aspects of themselves, the world, the future, and other people. 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.


PANAS – The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule incorporates a 10-item negative affect scale.[6] The PANAS-X is an expanded version of PANAS that incorporates negative affect subscales for Fear, Sadness, Guilt, Hostility, and Shyness.

I-PANAS-SF - The International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short Form is an extensively validated brief, cross-culturally reliable 10-item version of the PANAS.[7] Negative Affect items are Afraid, Ashamed, Hostile, Nervous and Upset. Internal consistency reliabilities between .72 and .76 are reported. The I-PANAS-SF was developed to eliminate redundant and ambiguous items and thereby derive an efficient measure for general use in research situations where either time or space are limited, or where international populations are of interest but where English may not be the mother tongue.[7]

Benefits of Negative Affect[edit]

Recent studies indicate that negative affect has important, beneficial impacts on cognition and behavior. These developments are a remarkable departure from past psychological research, which is characterized by a unilateral emphasis on the benefits of positive affect. [8] Both states of affect influence mental processes and behavior.

These findings complement evolutionary psychology theories that affective states serve adaptive functions. Positive and negative states signal to a person if a situation is favorable or challenging respectively. [8] Positive affect is associated with assimilative, top-down processing used in response to familiar, benign environments. Negative affect is connected with accommodative, bottom-up processing in response to unfamiliar, or problematic environments. (Bless&Fiedler) Thus, positive affectivity promotes simplistic heuristic approaches that rely on preexisting knowledge and assumptions. Conversely, negative affectivity promotes controlled, analytic approaches that rely on externally drawn information. (Bless&Fiedler)

Benefits of negative affect are present in areas of cognition including perception, judgment, and memory. [8] Since negative affect relies more on cautious processing than preexisting knowledge, people with negative affect tend to perform better in instances involving deception, manipulation, impression formation, and stereotyping. People also exhibit less interfering responses to stimuli when given descriptions or performing any cognitive task. [8] Lastly, negative affectivity's analytical and detailed processing of information leads to fewer fewer reconstructive-memory errors, thus reducing the misinformation effect and increasing overall accuracy of details.[8]




Memory has been found to have many failures that effect the accuracy of recalled memories.[9] This has been especially pragmatic in criminal settings as eyewitness memories have been found to be less reliable than one would hope. However, increased evidence suggests that negative mood's recruitment of externally focused and accommodative processing has a positive effect on the overall improvement of memory by reducing the misinformation effect and the number of false memories also known as confabulation.[8] Based on this knowledge there is a hoped implication that negative affectivity can be used to enhance eyewitness memory,[10] however, it seems that it has been found that the extent to which memory is improved with negative affect is not enough to make a sufficient improvement for eyewitness testimonies to be fully relied on.

Misinformation Effect[edit]

Negative Affect has been shown to decrease the susceptibility to incorporate given misleading information, which is related to the misinformation effect.[8] The misinformation effect refers to the finding that misleading information presented between the encoding of an event and its subsequent recall influences a witness's memory.[9] This corresponds to two types of memory failure:

Suggestibility: When recollections are influenced by the prodding or expectations of others creating false memories.[9][11]
Misattribution: When a witness gets confused and misattributes the misinformation to the original event, also regard to as the retroactive interference when later information interferes with the ability to retain previously encoded information.[9]

Negative mood has shown to decrease suggestibility error through measured reduced amounts of incorporation of false memories when misleading information is present, whereas positive affect has shown to increase susceptibility to misleading information. A study measured memory suggestibility failure by introducing misleading information through questions after witnessing an event and recording the number of false memories that reported. Participants included undergraduate students who began the study in a lecture hall, witnessing what they thought was an unexpected five-minute belligerent encounter between an intruder and the lecturer. A week later, these participants watched a video that was 10 minutes long and generated a positive, negative or neutral mood. They were then asked to respond to a brief questionnaire about the incident they witness a week earlier between the intruder and lecturer. In this questionnaire half of the participants received questions with misleading information and the other half received questions without any misleading information. This manipulation would help determine if participants were susceptible to a suggestibility failure of memory. Participants then engaged in a variation of unrelated distractors for 45 minutes, after which they were given a set of true or false questions through which the number of false memories could be measured. A fewer number of false memories were reported when participants were experiencing negative moods. Those experiencing positive moods as induced by the video showed to report a greater amount of false memories. This implies that positive affect promotes integration of misleading details and negative affect reduces the misinformation effect.[12][13]

Accuracy of Memory Recall[edit]

Negative moods towards events tend to result in fewer reconstructive false memories in recollection of what occurred than recollection of those with positive attitudes towards the events. This was evidenced by two studies conducted around public events. The first surrounded the events of the televised O.J. Simpson trial. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires a week, two months and a year after the televised verdict, which measured their emotions towards the verdict and the accuracy of their recalled memory of events that occurred. Overall the study found that though a participant's response to the event outcome did not affect the quantity of remembered information, it did influence the likelihood of false memory. Participants who were pleased with the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial were more likely to falsely believe something occurred during the trial than those who were displeased with the verdict.[14][15] Another experiment found the same findings in an experiment with Red Sox and Yankees fans in their overall memory of events that occurred in the final game of the 2004 playoff series, in which the Red Sox defeated the Yankees.[16][15] The results from both of these experiments are consistent with the findings that negative emotion can lead to fewer memory errors and thus increased memory accuracy of events.[15]

Degree of Memory Improvement[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ‏Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience negative aversive emotional states. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 465–490.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Tessler, R., & Mechanic, D. (1978). Psychological distress and perceived health status. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 19, 254-262.
  4. ^ Wills, T. A. (1986). Stress and coping in early adolescence: Relationships to substance use in urban school samples. Health Psychology, 5, 503-529.
  5. ^ Seidner, Stanley S. (1991), Negative Affect Arousal Reactions from Mexican and Puerto Rican Respondents, Washington, D.C.: ERIC, ISBN ED346711
  6. ^ Watson, D. (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.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Forgas, Joseph (2013). "Don't Worry, Be Sad! On the Cognitive, Motivational, and Interpersonal Benefits of Negative Mood" (PDF). Current Directions in Psychological Science. 22 (3): 225–232. doi:10.1177/0963721412474458. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d Robinson-Riegler, Bridget Robinson-Riegler, Gregory. Cognitive psychology: Applying the Science of the mind (3rd ed. ed.). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 978-0-205-03364-5. 
  10. ^ Sedikides, edited by Joseph P. Forgas, Klaus Fiedler, Constantine (2013). "The upside of feeling down: The benefits of negative mood for social cognition and social behavior". Social thinking and interpersonal behavior (PDF). New York, NY: Psychology Press. pp. 221–238. ISBN 978-0-203-13967-7. 
  11. ^ LaPaglia, Jessica A. (2013). "Misleading Suggestions can Alter Later Memory Reports even Following a Cognitive Interview". Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi:10.1002/acp.2950.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  12. ^ Forgas, Joseph P. (2005). "Mood effects on eyewitness memory: Affective influences on susceptibility to misinformation". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 41 (6): 574–588. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2004.11.005.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  13. ^ Weiner, editor, Irving B. (2012). "Affective Influences on Cognition". Handbook of psychology (Web) (2nd ed. ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. ISBN 9781118133880. 
  14. ^ Levine, Linda (2004). "Painting with broad strokes: Happiness and the malleability of event memory". Cognition & Emotion. 18 (4): 559–574. doi:10.1080/02699930341000446.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  15. ^ a b c Kensinger, Elizabeth A. (2007). "Negative Emotion Enhances Memory Accuracy: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Evidence". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 16 (4): 213–218. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00506.x.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  16. ^ Kensinger, Elizabeth A. (2006). "When the Red Sox shocked the Yankees: Comparing negative and positive memories". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 13 (5): 757–763. doi:10.3758/BF03193993.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)

Further reading

  • Beiser, M. (1974). Components and correlates of mental well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 15, 320-327
  • Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kanner, A. D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981 ). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 1-39.
  • Larsen, R. J., & Ketelaar, T. (1989). Extraversion, neuroticism, and susceptibility to positive and negative mood induction procedures. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 1221–1228.
  • Stone, A. A. ( 1981). The association between perceptions of daily experiences and self- and spouse-rated mood. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 510-522.
  • 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.

Category:Personality Category:Emotion Category:Suffering