PANAS: (A Complete Guide)

Since the dawn of civilization, understanding the delicate relationship between emotions and reasoning abilities has been a puzzle that occupied writers and philosophers.

Classic thinkers such as Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, and Kant devoted great attention to explore the relationship between feeling and thinking in human affairs.

In contemporary societies, attempts to promote positive affect and well-being and reduce negative affectivity and depression are emerging as important policy objectives.

In a sense, exploring the links between affect and cognitions lie at the heart of this quest to understand the fundamental relationship between the rational and the emotional aspect of human nature.

In the field of modern Psychology there is disagreement between the different school of thoughts over the definition of “affect” and its components.

However, the agreement upon these controversies leads us to some reliable conclusions.

Historical Background

In the 18th century, philosophers divided psychology’s subject matter into three distinct faculties: cognition, affect, and conation.

Of these, affect arguably remains the last explored and least understood.

Yet in early introspections experiments by Wundt, Titchener, affective, cognitive, and cognitive responses were still considered as inseparable, complementary aspects of human experience.

Since Plato’s time “affect” was considered as dangerous for rational being as it subverted the thinking abilities of humans.

This idea was long lasting in western thoughts and no inquiries were conducted to understand this special facet of human beings and was neglected centuries, from Aristotle to Freud.

The psychodynamic model in particular suggested that controlling affect requires countervailing psychological resources, which may often fail or lead to dysfunctional consequences.

Indeed, some writers even argued that human beings’ inability to understand and control affect reflects an evolutionary “fatal flaw” in the brain that may ultimately threaten the very survival of our species.

Fortunately, advances in social cognition, neuroanatomy, and psychophysiology during the last several decades led to the recognition that affect is often a useful and even essential component of cognition and behavior.

Pascal’s prescient claim from almost over three hundred and fifty years ago that “the heart has its own reasons which Reason does not understand” (Pascal, 1643/1966, p. 113) is now receiving empirical support showing that affect is an adaptive and essential adjunct to cognition.

Such a view is also supported by recent evolutionary approaches suggesting that, as a result of natural selection since ancestral times, affective reactions (such as jealousy) constitute specific mental modules that evolved to deal with particular adaptive problems.

One broad evolutionary model views emotions as superordinate cognitive programs that help us to activate and select the subset of cognitive strategies best suited to deal with a particular adaptive problem.

For example, positive and negative affective states may selectively recruit assimilative and accommodative cognitive strategies respectively, recently shown as most likely to yield adaptive outcomes in social cognitive tasks.

Another cognitive function of emotions (such as love and guilt)may be that they operate as commitment devices, helping us to sustain long-term adaptive strategies against superficially attractive short-term rewards.

Recent research in neuroscience also confirms that social cognitive and affective processes share overlapping neural structures, which have probably coevolved to deal with stimuli of high significance.

Neural structures associated in emotion processing, such as the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex, also participate in social information processing.

These findings are consistent with evolutionary principles suggesting that the pressures for dealing with significant stimuli led to the comingling of structure and function in the social and emotional brain areas.

Thus, emotion regions tend to be involved in the processing of social stimuli, and the social cognitive regions are also involved in the processing of emotional stimuli.

The adaptive advantage of responding flexibly to social stimuli may have been enhanced by co-opting affective neural systems that originally evolved to deal with hedonic events.

The hierarchical and modular organization of the brain also allows for the possibility of unconscious affect: affective influences on behavior without any conscious feelings.

In the light of these models the affectivity has been divided into major categories.

1.  Positive Affect

2.  Negative Affect

Positive Affect

         It is a human characteristic that describes how much people experience positive affects (sensations, emotions, sentiments); and as a consequence how they interact with others and with their surroundings.

People with high positive affectivity are typically enthusiastic, energetic, confident, active, and alert. Research has linked positive affectivity with an increase in longevity, better sleep, and a decrease in stress hormones.

People with a high positive affectivity have healthier coping styles, more positive self-qualities, and are more goal oriented.

Positive affectivity also promotes an open-minded attitude, sociability, and helpfulness.

Research findings indicate that there is a relationship between dopamine release and positive affect in cognitive abilities.

For instance, when dopamine levels are low, positive affect can stimulate the release of more dopamine, temporarily increasing cognitive, motor, and emotional processing.

Stimulating dopamine release influences several cognitive functions. First, an increase in dopamine in the nigrostriatal system can temporarily relieve motor or cognitive dysfunction, due to Parkinson’s.

An increase in dopamine release also influences the mesocorticolimbic system, via VTA cells, increasing mood and open mindedness in older adults.

Positive affect also stimulates dopamine production in the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate facilities, which help with processing working memory and executive attention.

Lastly, PA indirectly improves memory consolidation in the hippocampus, by increasing acetylcholine release from an increase in dopamine.

Overall, positive affect results in a more positive outlook, increases problem solving skills, increases social skills, increases activity and projects, and can play a role in motor function.

Furthermore, the individuals who have tendency to perceive positive affect of the situations are more likely to have following emotions and states.

  • Attentive
  • Active
  •  Alertness
  •  Excited
  •  Enthusiastic
  •  Determined
  •  Inspired
  • Interested
  •  Strong

All these states are signs of healthy personality and positive emotions leads toward better life experiences and self concept

Negative Affect

         It is a personality variable that involves the experience of negative emotions and poor self-concept. Negative affectivity subsumes a variety of negative emotions, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear and nervousness.

Low negative affectivity is characterized by frequent states of calmness and serenity, along with states of confidence, activeness, and great enthusiasm.

Individuals differ in negative emotional reactivity. Trait negative affectivity roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factor of anxiety or neuroticism that is found within the Big Five personality traits as emotional stability.

The Big Five are characterized as openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Neuroticism can plague an individual with severe mood swings, frequent sadness, worry, and being easily disturbed and predicts the development and onset of all “common” mental disorders.

Research shows that negative affectivity relates to different classes of variables: Self-reported stress and poor coping skills, health complaints and frequency of unpleasant events.

Weight gain and mental health complaints are often experienced as well.

People who express high negative affectivity view themselves and a variety of aspects of the world around them in generally negative terms.

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, and also evoke more negative life events.

The similarities between these affective traits and life satisfaction have led some researchers to view both positive and negative affect with life satisfaction as specific indicators of the broader construct of subjective well-being.

Negative affect arousal mechanisms can induce negative affective states as evidenced by a study conducted by Stanley S. Seidner on negative arousal and white noise.

The study quantified reactions from Mexican and Puerto Rican participants in response to the devaluation of speakers from other ethnic origins.

Those having low levels of positive affectivity (and high levels of negative affectivity) are characterized by sadness, lethargy, distress, and un-pleasurable engagement.

Low levels of positive affect are correlated with social anxiety and depression, due to decreased levels of dopamine

Measurement of Affect

         There are many self-reported measures available to help practitioners identify client strengths and symptoms of well-being.

Many of these measures are quick to administer and score and available online.

Some of the instruments available measure things like character strengths, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and even coping skills.

The PANAS measures positive and negative affect.

The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS):

The PANAS has been widely utilized as a self-reported measure of affect in both the community and clinical contexts.

It is used as a psychometric scale that is intended to show the relationship between positive and negative affect within certain personality traits.

When using the PANAS, participants gauge their feelings and respond via a questionnaire with 20 items.

A 5-point Likert scale is then used for scoring. Clinical studies, as well as non-clinical ones, have found PANAS to be a valid and reliable assessment tool for gauging positive and negative affect.

The PANAS was developed in 1988 by psychologists David Watson, Lee Anna Clark, and Auke Tellegen.

The scale intends to measure someone’s positive and negative affect and how a person is feeling at the moment.

The term affect is a very fancy way of talking about emotions and expressions.

It refers to the emotions or feelings that you might experience and display, in terms of how these emotions influence you to act and make decisions.

Positive affectivity refers to positive emotions and expressions such as joy, cheerfulness, or even contentment.

Negative affectivity, on the other hand, refers to negative emotions and expressions such as anger, fear, or sadness. We often assume that these two things are on opposite ends of the scale, but that is not necessarily so.

For example, you might feel a positive affect toward a friend who recently got promoted, but at the same time feel some degree of negative affect because of jealousy.

The PANAS measures both positive and negative emotions for clients from week-to-week as they engage in everyday life.

It can also be used as a tool for charting the immediate effects of therapy as well as any outcomes associated with positive psychological exercises, interventions or activities.

The scale is sensitive to momentary changes in affect when clients are directed to complete the form based on their affect at the present moment.

Participants utilizing PANAS use a 5-point scale in which they determine if a concept applies.

1.  Very Slightly or Not at All.

2.  A Little.

3.  Moderately.

4.  Quite a Bit.

5.  Extremely.

The final score is derived out of the sum of the ten items on both the positive and negative side.

The PANAS is designed around 20 items of affect. The scale is composed of several words that describe different emotions and feelings.

Clients are instructed to read each item and then list the number from the scale next to each word. The intent is to indicate to what extent they feel these emotions at the moment or how they felt over the past week.

Terms used in the scale are as follows (underlined items are emotions that display positive affect):

  •   Interested
  •    Distressed
  •   Excited
  • Upset
  •  Strong
  •  Guilty
  •  Scared
  •  Hostile
  •   Enthusiastic
  •  Proud
  •  Irritable
  • Alert
  •  Ashamed
  • Inspired
  •   Nervous
  •  Determined
  •  Attentive
  •    Jittery
  •  Active
  •  Afraid

Scores can range from 10-50 for both the Positive and Negative Affect with the lower scores representing lower levels of Positive/Negative Affect and higher scores representing higher levels of Positive/Negative Affect.

FAQs about PANAS 

1. What does PANAS measures?

PANAS is used to measure positive and negative affect.

This scale can also be used to establish the correlation between positive and negative affective traits and personality characteristics.

2. Who created PANAS?

PANAS was developed by Watson, Clark and Tellegen in 1988.

This scale is used to measure the changes in affect while conducting research. 

3. How do you use PANAS?

PANAS is a psychometric scale. Participants figure out their feelings and then respond on a 20 item questionnaire.

They rate their feeling on 5 point Likert type scale.