The Circumplex Model of Affect

It has been quite sometime since we posted anything here. Here we go! This time we briefly explain about the circumplex model of affect.

We are familiar with many emotions. Are there any relations among them? Or, are they independent? Happiness and sadness looks dependent such that when one increases, the other decreases and vice versa. What about others like surprise and happiness? We cannot directly state a relation. These kinds of curiosities lead  to the circumplex model of affect.

So, what is circumplex model of affect?

This model postulates that the underlying structure of affective experience can be characterized as an ordering of affective states on the circumference of a circle as shown in the following figure.

Circumplex Model

Figure: The Circumplex Model of Affect [Promises and Problems with the Circumplex Model of Emotion,” by R. J. Larson and E. Diener, in M. S. Clark (Ed.), 1992, Review of Personality and Social Psychology: Emotion (Vol. 13, p. 31), Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Copyright 1992 by Sage]

Originally proposed by Schlosberg [Schlosberg, H. (1941). A scale for the judgment of facial expressions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29, 497-510., Schlosberg, H. (1952). The description of facial expression in terms of two dimensions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 44, 229-237.], this model is most extensively elaborated upon by Russell [Russell, J. A., & Pratt, G. (1980). A description of the affective quality attributed to environments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,38, 311-322].

According to this model, affective states should have decreasing positive correlations with one another as their separation from one another approaches 90°. At 90° separation, two affective states should be uncorrelated with one another. As the separation approaches 180°, affective states should have increasing negative correlations with one another. Here we can observe that it is plotted in a two dimensional scale (positive – negative and high arousal – low arousal). The following figure shows 28 affect words plotted in this scale.

28 Affect
28 Affect

Figure: 28 affect concepts in circular order [Russel, J Al, A circumplex model of affect, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1980, Vol. 39, No. 6, pages 1161 – 1178].

There are some criticisms against this model. The criticisms are that the two dimensional representation fails to capture important aspects of emotional experience and therefore sometimes does not reflect crucial differences among some emotions, the model was formulated on the basis of a selection of emotions that was not guided by systematic sampling or clear theoretical guidelines, different versions of the model sometimes postulate different locations for affective states and that empirically affective states are not always located in their predicted regions of the circle, etc.