For affective science to advance, researchers will need to develop a better understanding of neutral affect. At first glance, neutral affect may seem uninteresting to some affective scientists because the goal is to investigate hedonic experiences, not the presumed absence of them. This failure to fully consider and examine neutral affect, however, limits the field’s potential for new discoveries. In this paper, I discuss how a greater understanding of neutral affect can inform researchers’ views of valence, subjective well-being, and behavior. I define neutral affect and discuss evidence indicating that neutral affect is a commonly felt state that occurs independently of positive and negative affect. These data suggest that to understand the entirety of the affective landscape, researchers should move beyond traditional measures of valence and consider how positive, negative, and neutral affective states might inform their phenomenon of interest. I then illustrate how neutral affect might be a key, albeit complex, influence on subjective well-being. I also discuss how neutrality might be a fundamental and unique predictor of inaction. If affective scientists want to fully understand how feelings operate and function, it is essential that they explore the possibility that neutral affect might hold some of the essential clues needed to solve their affective puzzle.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Clinical Psychology
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Social Psychology