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Affect display

    In psychology '''affect display''' or '''affective display''' is a subject's externally displayed affect The display can be by facial vocal or gestural means When displayed affect is different from the subjective affect it is incongruent affect Some professional use the term "affect" is to mean "affect display"http://wwwabesscom/glossaryhtml
    Affect is a psychological term that refers to the impetus for observable expression of emotion; for the human being that expression or feeling displayed to others through facial expressions hand gestures voice tone and other emotional signs such as laughter or tears is a part of a series of non-conscious or conscious cognitive events The expressions vary between and within cultures and are displayed in various forms ranging from the most discrete of facial expressions to the most dramatic and prolific gestures (Batson 1992)
    Affect is also a critical facet of communication in the social domain Human dyadic interaction is colored by affect and there are various theories on affective reactions to stimuli to include conscious and non-conscious reaction and positive/negative affect
    Affect is a key part of the process of an organism’s response to stimuli This article discusses theoretical perspectives history and psychological meanings of the term as well as distinctions between mood and emotion

    Theoretical perspective

    The term ‘Affect’ can be taken to indicate an instinctual reaction to simulation occurring before the typical cognitive processes considered necessary for the formation of a more complex emotion Robert B. Zajonc asserts this reaction to stimuli is primary for human beings and that it is the dominant reaction for lower organisms Zajonc suggests affective reactions can occur without extensive perceptual and cognitive encoding and can be made sooner and with greater confidence than cognitive judgments (Zajonc 1980)
    Many theorists (eg Lazarus 1982) consider affect to be post-cognitive That is, affect is thought to be elicited only after a certain amount of cognitive processing of information has been accomplished In this view an affective reaction such as liking disliking evaluation or the experience of pleasure or displeasure is based on a prior cognitive process in which a variety of content discriminations are made and features are identified examined for their value and weighted for their contributions (Brewin 1989)
    A divergence from a narrow reinforcement model for emotion allows for other perspectives on how affect influences emotional development Thus temperament cognitive development socialization patterns and the idiosyncrasies of one's family or subculture are mutually interactive in non-linear ways As an example the temperament of a highly reactive/low self-soothing infant may “disproportionately” affect the process of emotion regulation in the early months of life (Griffiths 1997)


    A number of experiments have been conducted in the study of social and psychological affective preferences (ie what people like or dislike) Specific research has been done on preferences attitudes impression formation and decision making This research contrasts findings with recognition memory (old-new judgments) allowing researchers to demonstrate reliable distinctions between the two Affect-based judgments and cognitive processes have been examined with noted differences indicated and some argue affect and cognition are under the control of separate and partially independent systems that can influence each other in a variety of ways (Zajonc 1980) Both affect and cognition may constitute independent sources of effects within systems of information processing Others suggest emotion is a result of an anticipated experienced or imagined outcome of an adaptational transaction between organism and environment therefore cognitive appraisal processes are keys to the development and expression of an emotion (Lazarus 1982)

    Non-conscious affect and perception

    In relation to perception a type of non-conscious affect may be separate from the cognitive processing of environmental stimuli A monoheirarchy of perception affect and cognition considers the roles of arousal attentional tendencies affective primacy (Zajonc 1980) evolutionary constraints (Shepard 1984; 1994) and covert perception (Weiskrantz 1997) within the sensing and processing of preferences and discriminations Emotions are complex chains of events triggered by certain stimuli There is no way to completely describe an emotion by knowing only some of its components Verbal reports of feelings are often inaccurate because people may not know exactly what they feel or they may feel several different emotions at the same time There are also situations that arise in which individuals attempt to hide their feelings and there are some who believe that public and private events seldom coincide exactly and that words for feelings are generally more ambiguous than are words for objects or events
    Affective responses on the other hand are more basic and may be less problematical in terms of assessment Brewin has proposed two experiential processes that frame non-cognitive relations between various affective experiences Those that are prewired dispositions (ie non-conscious processes) able to “select from the total stimulus array those stimuli that are casually relevant using such criteria as perceptual salience spatiotemporal cues and predictive value in relation to data stored in memory” (Brewin 1989 p381) and those that are automatic (ie subconscious processes) characterized as “rapid relatively inflexible and difficult to modify…(requiring) minimal attention to occur and…(capable of being) activated without intention or awareness” (1989 p381)


    Arousal is a basic physiological response to the presentation of stimuli When this occurs a non-conscious affective process takes the form of two control mechanisms; one mobilization and the other immobilizing Within the human brain the amygdala regulates an instinctual reaction initiating this arousal process either freezing the individual or accelerating mobilization
    The arousal response is illustrated in studies focused on reward systems that control food-seeking behavior (Balliene 2005) Researchers focused on learning processes and modulatory processes that are present while encoding and retrieving goal values When an organism seeks food the anticipation of reward based on environmental events becomes another influence on food seeking that is separate from the reward of food itself Therefore earning the reward and anticipating the reward are separate processes and both create an excitatory influence of reward-related cues Both processes are dissociated at the level of the amygdale and are functionally integrated within larger neural systems

    Affect and mood

    Mood like emotion is an affective state However an emotion tends to have a clear focus (ie it’s cause is self-evident) while mood tends to be more unfocused and diffused Mood according to Batson Shaw and Oleson (1992) involves tone and intensity and a structured set of beliefs about general expectations of a future experience of pleasure or pain or of positive or negative affect in the future Unlike instant reactions that produce affect or emotion and that change with expectations of future pleasure or pain moods being diffused and unfocused and thus harder to cope with can last for days weeks months or even years (Schucman 1975) Moods are hypothetical constructs depicting an individual's emotional state Researchers typically infer the existence of moods from a variety of behavioral referents (Blechman 1990)
    Positive affect and negative affect represent independent domains of emotion in the general population and positive affect is strongly linked to social interaction Positive and negative daily events show independent relationships to subjective well-being and positive affect is strongly linked to social activityRecent research suggests that high functional support is related to higher levels of positive affect The exact process through which social support is linked to positive affect remains unclear The process could derive from predictable regularized social interaction from leisure activities where the focus is on relaxation and positive mood or from the enjoyment of shared activities

    Affect and the present moment

    In the book The Stillness of the Mind Eckhart focuses on self-awareness and the perception of the present that leads to a cognitive conscious affective state of the human condition This present-moment consciousness of affect includes various stimuli processed within the framework of cultures organizations and environments all of which contribute toward the development of the emotional state of the human organism (Tolle 1999 2003)

    Meanings in art

    The difference between the externally observable affect and the internal mood has been implicitly accepted in art and indeed within language itself The word "giddy" for example carries within it the connotation that the characterized individual may be displaying a happiness that the speaker/observer believes either insincere or short-living


    Psychologists consider affective processes to be the basis of feelings and emotions Feelings are the result of affect arousal cognition and perception in the present moment and within the social environment for human beings
    Affect is considered by some social scientists and psychologists to be a critical building block of feelings and emotions in both conscious and non-conscious states Some argue that affect is pre-cognitive and some contend that affect is post-cognitive based on likes dislikes preferences and sensation Affect is also a factor in emotional development mood arousal and consideration of the present moment
    The influence of affect on human behavior ranges from primal instinctual reaction and arousal to post-cognitive consideration of one’s own mortality and mood This elemental sensorial building block of emotion plays a critical role in the human communicative processes within the social and psychological domains


    • Balliene B. W. (2005) Dietary Influences on Obesity: Environment Behavior and Biology Physiology & Behavior 86 (5) pp. 717-730 Batson CD Shaw L. L., Oleson K. C. (1992) Differentiating affect mood and : Toward functionally-based conceptual distinctions Emotion Newbury Park CA: Sage
    • Blechman E. A. (1990) Moods Affect and Emotions Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale NJ
    • Brewin C. R. (1989) Cognitive Change Processes in Psychotherapy Psychological Review 96(45) pp. 379-394
    • Griffiths P. E. (1997) What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories The University of Chicago Press: Chicago
    • Lazarus R. S. (1982) Thoughts on the Relations between Emotions and Cognition American Physiologist 37(10) pp. 1019-1024
    • Schucman H., Thetford C. (1975) A Course in Miracle New : Viking Penguin
    • Shepard R. N. (1984) Ecological constraints on internal representation Psychological Review 91, pp. 417-447
    • Shepard R. N. (1994) Perceptual-cognitive universals as reflections of the world Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 1, pp. 2-28
    • Tolle E. (1999) The Power of Now Vancouver: Namaste Publishing
    • Tolle E. (2003) Stillness Speaks Vancouver: Namaste Publishing
    • Weiskrantz L. (1997) Consciousness lost and found Oxford: Oxford Univ Press
    • Zajonc R. B. (1980) Feelings and Thinking: Preferences need no Inferences American Psychologist 35(2) pp. 151-175



    See also