Feelings Change: Accounting for Individual Differences in the Temporal Dynamics of Affect

Peter Kuppens, Zita Oravecz, Francis Tuerlinckx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

348 Scopus citations


People display a remarkable variability in the patterns and trajectories with which their feelings change over time. In this article, we present a theoretical account for the dynamics of affect (DynAffect) that identifies the major processes underlying individual differences in the temporal dynamics of affective experiences. It is hypothesized that individuals are characterized by an affective home base, a baseline attractor state around which affect fluctuates. These fluctuations vary as the result of internal or external processes to which an individual is more or less sensitive and are regulated and tied back to the home base by the attractor strength. Individual differences in these 3 processes-affective home base, variability, and attractor strength-are proposed to underlie individual differences in affect dynamics. The DynAffect account is empirically evaluated by means of a diffusion modeling approach in 2 extensive experience-sampling studies on people's core affective experiences. The findings show that the model is capable of adequately capturing the observed dynamics in core affect across both large (Study 1) and shorter time scales (Study 2) and illuminate how the key processes are related to personality and emotion dispositions. Implications for the understanding of affect dynamics and affective dysfunctioning in psychopathology are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1060
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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