Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Valence (psychology)

Valence (psychology)

Ask a question about 'Valence (psychology)'
Start a new discussion about 'Valence (psychology)'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Valence, as used in psychology, especially in discussing emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

s, means the intrinsic attractiveness
Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria...

 (positive valence) or aversiveness
Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, is an individual's basic affective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. Suffering may be qualified as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and...

 (negative valence) of an event, object, or situation. However, the term is also used to characterize and categorize specific emotions. For example, the emotions popularly referred to as "negative", such as anger
Anger is an automatic response to ill treatment. It is the way a person indicates he or she will not tolerate certain types of behaviour. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response....

 and fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

, have "negative valence". Joy
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

 has "positive valence". Positively valenced emotions are evoked by positively valenced events, objects, or situations. The term is also used about the hedonic tone of feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

s, affect
Affect (psychology)
Affect refers to the experience of feeling or emotion. Affect is a key part of the process of an organism's interaction with stimuli. The word also refers sometimes to affect display, which is "a facial, vocal, or gestural behavior that serves as an indicator of affect" .The affective domain...

, certain behavior
Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

s (for example, approach and avoidance), goal-attainment or -non-attainment, and conformity with or violation of norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

. Ambivalence
Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having thoughts and/or emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something. A common example of ambivalence is the feeling of...

 can be viewed as conflict between positive and negative valence-carriers.

History of usage

The term entered English usage in psychology with the translation from German in 1935 of works of Kurt Lewin
Kurt Lewin
Kurt Zadek Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology....

. Ambivalence has a longer history.

Criterion for emotion

Valence is one criterion used in some definitions of emotion. The possible absence of valence is cited as a reason to exclude surprise
Surprise (emotion)
Surprise is a brief emotional state experienced as the result of an unexpected event. Surprise can have any valence; that is, it can be neutral/moderate, pleasant, or unpleasant. If a person experiences a very powerful or long lasting surprise, it may be considered shock.-Reality...

, viewed as the startle reaction
Startle reaction
The startle response is a brainstem reflex that serves to protect the back of the neck , or the eye , and also facilitates escape from sudden stimuli. It is found across the lifespan and in many species. An individual's emotional state may lead to a variety of different responses...

, from the list of emotions, though some would include it.


Valence could be assigned a number and treated as if it were measured, but the validity of a measurement
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 based on a subjective
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 report is questionable. Measurement based on observations of facial expressions, using the Facial Action Coding System
Facial Action Coding System
Facial Action Coding System is a system to taxonomize human facial expressions, originally developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace V. Friesen in 1978...

 and microexpressions (see Paul Ekman
Paul Ekman
Paul Ekman is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He has been considered one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the twentieth century...

), or on modern functional brain imaging may overcome this objection.

External links