Integration of Discrete and Global Structures of Affect Across Three Large Samples: Specific Emotions Within-Persons and Global Affect Between-Persons


Researchers have held a long-standing debate regarding the validity of discrete emotions versus global affect. The current manuscript tries to integrate these perspectives by explicitly examining the structures of state emotions and trait affect across time. Across three samples (sample 1: N = 176 Unites States undergraduates in a 50 day daily diary study, total observations = 7,504; sample 2: N = 2,104 in a 30 day daily diary study within a community sample in Germany; total observations = 28,090; sample 3: N = 245, ecological momentary assessment study within the United States from an outpatient psychiatry clinic completing five measurements per day for 21 days; total observations = 29,950), participants completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. An exploratory multilevel factor analysis in sample 1 allowed for the simultaneous estimation of state factors (i.e., within-person factor analysis) and trait factors (i.e., between-person factor analysis). Confirmatory multilevel factor models examined the generalizability of the multilevel factor solutions to samples 2 and 3. Across all samples, the results suggested strong support for a two-factor solution for trait affect and a seven-factor solution for state emotion. Taken together, these results suggest that positive affect and negative affect can be used to describe differences across people, but at least seven differentiated emotions are experienced within persons across time.