chapter  4
32 Pages

Affective Consequences of Complexity Regarding the Self and Others

WithPatricia W. Linville

Extremity or variability of affect is a fundamental aspect of human affective experience. By affective extremity I mean the degree to which a person’s moods and social evaluations vary across time, stimuli, or situations. For instance, consider a college senior who applies to a number of top law schools. Over Christmas she receives her LSAT score, which is 50 points above her expecta­ tion. Her mood is euphoric. She experiences an inflated self-appraisal. Shortly after, she receives her fall grade report. Her fall grades are much poorer than she expected, a real blow to her prospects for admission to a top law school. Her mood is now bleak, almost depressed. Her self-appraisal is severely deflated. This example illustrates how moods and feelings about oneself vary over time. It also illustrates the role of changes in circumstances as causes of affective vari­ ability. There are, however, individual differences in the degree of affective variability. To continue this example, another woman with the same academic record and the same hopes for law school admission responds very differently to receiving the same good and bad news. After receiving her LSAT scores, she feels really pleased; after learning of her fall grades, she feels mildly dejected. In short, her mood and self-appraisal vary less in response to good and bad happen­ ings in her life.