Second-to-Second Affective Responses to Images Correspond With Affective Reactivity, Variability, and Instability in Daily Life

Exp Psychol. 2023 Jan;70(1):14-31. doi: 10.1027/1618-3169/a000564.


Two distinct literatures have evolved to study within-person changes in affect over time. One literature has examined affect dynamics with millisecond-level resolution under controlled laboratory conditions, and the second literature has captured affective dynamics across much longer timescales (e.g., hours or days) within the relatively uncontrolled but more ecologically valid conditions of daily life. Despite the importance of linking these literatures, very little research has been done so far. In the laboratory, peak affect intensities and reaction durations were quantified using a paradigm that captures second-to-second changes in subjective affect elicited by provocative images. In two studies, analyses attempted to link these micro-dynamic indexes to fluctuations in daily affect ratings collected via daily protocols up to 4 weeks later. Although peak intensity and reaction duration scores from the laboratory did not consistently relate to daily scores pertaining to affect variability or instability, the total magnitude of changes in affect following images did display relationships of this type. In addition, higher peaks in the laboratory predicted larger intensity reactions to salient daily events. Together, the studies provide insights into the mechanisms through which correspondences and noncorrespondences between laboratory reactivity indices and daily affect dynamic measures can be expected.

Keywords: affective dynamics; duration; instability; intensity; variability.