The Fundamental Four

Exploring the deepest motivational drives

The Basic Structure of Emotions

Emotional dimensions as revealed by PANAS-X scales.

emotions

Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Regular readers will know that I am an avid believer and practitioner of positive psychology. The Positive psych 101 tenet is that positive emotions and negative emotions are separate constructs- the lack of negative emotions does not guarantee positive emotions and vice versa. I have blogged previously about work of Keyes that shows that mental health and mental illness are separate constructs/ dimensions, and from there had conjectured that Sadness-Anger makes one end/dimension of negative emotions; while Joy-Ennui makes the other end/dimension of positive emotions.

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Today I want to revisit that classification of emotions taking into account the factor structure and scales of PANAS-X (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule—Expanded Form), a popular instrument to measure state and trait affects.  

The PANAS was originally developed by Watson, Clark and Tellegen and contained 2 10-item scales to measure Positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). This instrument was developed after extensive research showed that emotions indeed split into two factors—positive affect and negative affect- and that these are the dominant dimensions of emotional experience.

PANAS-X is a further extended form of PANAS, which contains 60 items, and has eleven sub-scales apart from the 2 original PA and NA scales. Various experimental and factor analytical studies have confirmed that emotions have a hierarchical composition, with PA and NA forming the Big Two emotional dimensions—and the PA and NA are further composed of  sub-scales—in the case of NA, 4 sub scales load on NA- these are Fear, Sadness, Guilt , Hostility. In the case of PA, 3 sub-scales clearly load on PA- Joviality, Self-assurance, Attentiveness and a fourth factor called Surprise, surprisingly loads both on PA and NA, but for our purposes I am taking that as a subscale for PA (I have sound theoretical reasons to do so).

To recap, NA is made up of Sadness (sad, blue, downhearted, alone, lonely) , Hostility (angry, hostile, irritable, scornful, disgusted, loathing) ; and Fear (afraid, scared, frightened, nervous, jittery, shaky) , Guilt (guilty, ashamed, blameworthy, angry at self, disgusted with self, dissatisfied with self); while PA is made of Joviality (happy, joyful, delighted, cheerful, excited, enthusiastic, lively, energetic) , Attentiveness (alert, attentive, concentrating, determined) ; and Self-assurance (proud, strong, confident, bold, daring, fearless) ,  Surprise (amazed, surprised, astonished).

Please note that in the above, I have rearranged the factors and clubbed some of them together like sadness- hostility; fear-guilt; joy-attentiveness and self-assurance-surprise.

Time to revisit my earlier post on basic emotions as inspired by the eight rasas of Indian art and dance form. As per that the pairs are:

Thus, there are four constellations:

1. Karuna- Raudra: or that of sadness—anger.

2. Bhayanak- bibhitsa: or that of fear—disgust

3. Hasya- Shringar: or that of joy-affection (love)

4. Adbhuta- Veera: or that of surprise—interest.

 

Please note that anger and hostility are the same; the cluster related to Fear is labelled Disgust in one and Guilt in other so we will call it disgust/guilt, as these are closely related; the construct related to Joy is labelled attentiveness/love to capture the essence of Sringara and finally Veera in Hindi means brave, courageous, fearless so definitely the interest/self-assurance is the related construct to surprise.

 

To put it all together again.

  • PA and NA are separate, but also in a sense opposed to each other.
  • Each breaks into 4 sub-factors, where 2 sub-factors are more closely related to each other.
  • Each sub-factor of PA can be pitted in opposition to a similar sub-factor of NA.
  • It can thus be said that the world of emotions is four bipolar dimensional and all emotions systematically differ on these four bipolar dimensions from each other.

Here are the four dimensions of emotions about which I have blogged earlier- Valence (pleasant- unpleasant); Arousal (passive- active); Control/Dominance (in-control, without-control); Predictiveness (broadly/vaguely predictable; narrowly/ tightly predictable).

 

Also it is my conjecture that Valence / Arousal are more closely related (I’ll write another blog post as to why that is the case) and Potency/ Predictiveness are more closely related.

 

With this in mind, we can list the basic emotion factors and dimensions as:

  1. Valence—from Joy (pleasant)  to Sadness (unpleasant)
  2. Arousal—from Attentiveness/ Love (passive) to Anger/ Hostility (active)
  3. Dominance—from Interest/ Self-Assurance (in control) to Fear-Anxiety (lack of control)
  4. Predictiveness—from  Surprise (unpredictable) to Guilt/Disgust (totally predictable responses)

Of course this also aligns well with my Theodore Millon dimensions and polarities – Pain-pleasure, Active-passive, Self-other and Broad- Narrow.

 

In the next post I will try to relate the above basic emotions with their antecedents—the approach and avoidance motivations and how success/ failure or hindrance in goal pursuit will lead to these dimensions and polarities.

 

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Sandeep Gautam is a software developer and psychology enthusiast.

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