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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alfonso, V. C., Allison, D. B., Rader, D. E., & Gorman, B. S. (1996). The extended satisfaction with life scale: Development and psychometric properties. Social Indicators Research, 38(3), 275–301.
Bao, K. J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). The rewards of happiness. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 119–133). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brown, T. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. London: The Guilford Press.
Conway, A. M., Tugade, M. M., Catalino, L. I., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions: Form, function, and mechanisms. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 17–34). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Curran, P. J., West, S. G., & Finch, J. F. (1996). The robustness of test statistics to nonnormality and specification error in confirmatory factor analysis. Psychological Methods, 1(1), 16–29.
Davern, M. T., Cummins, R. A., & Stokes, M. A. (2007). Subjective wellbeing as an affective-cognitive construct. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8(4), 429–449.
DeVellis, R. F. (2012). Scale development: Theory and applications. London: Sage Publications.
Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.
Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1), 1–43.
Ekkekakis, P. (2013). The measurement of affect, mood, and emotion: A guide for health-behavioral research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fabrigar, L. R., & Wegener, D. T. (2012). Exploratory factor analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Feldman Barrett, L., & Russell, J. A. (1998). Independence and bipolarity in the structure of current affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(4), 967–984.
Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39–50.
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 300–319.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Cohn, M. A. (2008). Positive emotions. In M. Lewis, J.M. Haviland-Jones, & L. Feldman Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions, (pp. 777–796). New York: The Guildford Press.
Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis: A global perspective. New York: Pearson.
Hone, L., Jarden, A., & Schofield, G. (2013). Psychometric properties of the Flourishing Scale in a New Zealand sample. Social Indicators Research. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11205-013-0501-x.
Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York: The Guilford press.
Larsen, R. J., & Diener, E. (1992). Promises and problems with the circumplex model of emotion. In M. S. Clark (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology: Emotion (pp. 25–59). Newbury Park: Sage.
Lavallee, L. F., Hatch, P. M., Michalos, A. C., & McKinley, T. (2007). Development of the contentment with life assessment scale (CLAS): Using daily life experiences to verify levels of self-reported life satisfaction. Social Indicators Research, 83(2), 201–244.
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.
O’ Boyle, E.H., & Williams, L.J. (2010). RMSEA-P and 90% confidence interval calculator. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/235340737_O’Boyle__Williams_RMSEA-P_CI_calculator/file/9fcfd51111a663c088.xls.
Pressman, S. D., & Cohen, S. (2005). Does positive affect influence health? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 925–971.
Remington, N. A., Fabrigar, L. R., & Visser, P. S. (2000). Reexamining the circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(2), 286–300.
Russell, J. A. (1980). A circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(6), 1161–1178.
Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological Review, 110(1), 145–172.
Russell, J. A., & Feldman Barrett, L. (1999). Core affect, prototypical emotional episodes, and other things called emotion: Dissecting the elephant. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(5), 805–819.
Russell, J. A., Lewicka, M., & Niit, T. (1989). A cross-cultural study of a circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(5), 848–856.
Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (2000). Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implication. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 61–84). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.
Sortheix, F. M., & Lönnqvist, J. E. (2014). Personal value priorities and life satisfaction in Europe: The moderating role of socioeconomic development. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(2), 282–299.
Stevens, J. P. (2009). Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences. New York: Routledge.
Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Pearson.
Thayer, R. E. (1967). Measurement of activation through self-report. Psychological Reports, 20(2), 663–678.
Thayer, R. E. (2012). Moods of energy and tension that motivate. In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 408–419). New York: Oxford University Press.
Watkins, M.W. (2000) Monte Carlo PCA for Parallel Analysis (Mac version). Real basic.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (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.
Watson, D., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 219–235.
Yik, M., Russell, J. A., & Steiger, J. H. (2011). A 12-point circumplex structure of core affect. Emotion, 11(4), 705–731.
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.
Appendix I: Scree plots (2 levels)
Appendix II: Factor loadings (2 levels–2 factors)
Energy and HAP
Energy and MAP
Energy and LAP
HAP and MAP
HAP and LAP
MAP and LAP
Appendix III: Factor loadings (2 levels–1 factor)
Energy and HAP
Energy and MAP
Energy and LAP
HAP and MAP
HAP and LAP
MAP and LAP
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Longo, Y. The Simple Structure of Positive Affect. Soc Indic Res 124, 183–198 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0776-6
- Positive affect
- Life satisfaction
- Subjective well-being