The independence of positive and negative affect

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 Nov;47(5):1105-17. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.47.5.1105.


Five studies on the relation between positive and negative affect are reported. In Studies 1 and 2 we found that positive feelings were remembered as being nearly independent of negative feelings in the past year, but the two types of affect were moderately negatively correlated for the past month. In Studies 3 and 5, subjects completed daily mood reports for 70 and 30 days, respectively. In Study 4, subjects completed three-week, daily, and moment mood reports and also filled out reports when they experienced strong emotions. The principal finding was that the relation between positive and negative affect differed greatly depending on the time frame. The strongest negative correlation between the two affects occurred during emotional times. The correlation decreased in a linear fashion as the time span covered increased logarithmically. It appears that positive and negative affect are independent in terms of how much people feel in their lives over longer time periods. Researchers need to focus on the processes that underlie both positive and negative affect and that are responsible for producing their relative independence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Time Factors