Core Affect Dynamics: Arousal as a Modulator of Valence

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (4):783-801 (2020)
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Abstract

According to several researchers, core affect lies at the foundation of our affective lives and may be characterized as a consciously accessible state combining arousal (activated-deactivated) and valence (pleasure-displeasure). The interaction between these two dimensions is still a matter of debate. In this paper we provide a novel hypothesis concerning their interaction, by arguing that subjective arousal levels modulate the experience of a stimulus’ affective quality. All things being equal, the higher the arousal, the more a given stimulus would be experienced as pleasant (or unpleasant). While marshaling some preliminary evidence in favor of this hypothesis, we also show how it might be relevant in reframing our conception of depressive disorders (i.e., major and bipolar depression).

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