The Simple Structure of Positive Affect
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The structure of affect is often studied through the circumplex: a circular model on which similar (i.e. highly correlated) states lie close to each other. While very informative, the circumplex lacks simple structure, as items spread more or less uniformly around its perimeter. Consequently, affect scales loading close to each other on the circumplex are likely to overlap substantially and have poor discriminant validity. The present study aims to identify distinct dimensions of affect. Based on theory and previous findings, the following hypotheses were formulated: (1) only positive affect items loading on the most distant segments of the circumplex will form two separate factors and approximate a simple structure; (2) moderate-arousal positive affect (MAP) should be representative of general positive affect; (3) MAP should substantially overlap with life satisfaction (LS). The hypotheses were tested in an Australian sample (N = 424) through exploratory analyses and structural equation modelling, and were all supported. The paper contributes to current research by encouraging a more parsimonious measurement of positive affect. Studies focusing on different levels of arousal may only use scales of calmness and energy. Studies that aim to measure positive affect in general may simply use a MAP scale, as a promising alternative to the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS, Watson et al. in J Pers Soc Psychol 54(6):1063–1070, 1988). Finally, since MAP also explained 68 % of the variance in LS, it shows potential as a brief measure of subjective well-being.
KeywordsPositive affect Life satisfaction Subjective well-being Circumplex Vitality
This research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council grant ES/J500100/1 to Ylenio Longo. Portions of this article served as part of Ylenio Longo’s PhD thesis. Thanks are due to Robert A. Cummins for providing the data, and to Stephen Joseph, Nick Manning, and Cees van der Eijk for comments on prior versions of this paper.
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