Affect intensity and reactions to daily life events


Larsen, R. J., Diener, E., & Emmons, R. A. (1986). Affect intensity and reactions to daily life events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(4), 803.


Conducted 2 studies to examine individual differences in affective response intensity to identical levels of emotion-provoking stimulation. In Study 1, with 62 undergraduates, the stimuli were daily life events. Ss recorded 2 events/day for 56 consecutive days and rated their affective reactions to those events. A total of 5,971 event descriptions were obtained. These event descriptions were given to a team of coders who rated each event in terms of how objectively good or bad it was. Study 2 presented 176 undergraduates with standardized life event descriptions, ranging from very good to very bad, and asked how they would react emotionally to each event. Ss were divided into high and low affect-intensity groups on the basis of their responses to a measure of affect intensity. Findings were consistent across both studies. High-intense Ss responded to the actual and hypothetical life events with stronger or more intense affective reactions. This finding held regardless of whether the events elicited positive or negative affect and regardless of whether the emotional stimulation was judged to be slightly, moderately, or very strong. Results are discussed in terms of stimulus intensity modulation theory and prior research on affect.

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