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Pleasure, displeasure, and mixed feelings: Are semantic opposites mutually exclusive?

by Ulrich Schimmack
Cognition & Emotion ()
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Determined if pleasure and displeasure are opposite markers of a single dimension or 2 separate feelings. In addition, other pairs of affect including awake-tired, interested-bored, tense-calm, and hot-cold were assessed. Subjects were 342 college students who were exposed to 20 unpleasant, 10 neutral, and 20 pleasant pictures. Subjects completed pre- and post-induction questionnaire assessments as to how they were feeling at that particular moment. The affect questionnaires included all adjectives, which were presented individually and rated on a unipolar intensity scale. The results suggest that pleasure and displeasure are separate affects. Further, the intensities of the 2 affects appear to be reciprocally related in that increases in 1 affect appear to reduce the intensity of the opposite affect. However, the reciprocal relationship between the 2 affects does not imply that they are mutually exclusive. The author states that, when 1 affect is strong, the inhibitory effect of the opposite affect is not sufficient to eliminate the opposite affect. Thus, people experience both pleasure and displeasure. The findings concerning the additional affects which were characterized by semantic opposites are inconclusive. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2000 APA, all rights reserved)

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