Three Dimensions of EmotionPosted: November 14, 2007 | |
(image from Fractal.org)
People exhibit a huge range of emotions and it can be a bewildering challenge to ascribe unique meaning to each emotional state that a person might find themselves in. A framework for analyzing emotional states can help us understand emotions by decomposing them into underlying dimensions.
Three key dimensions appear to be:
- Valence: positive vs. negative
- Activation: ready-to-act/aroused vs. relaxed
- Power: dominant vs. submissive
We can describe almost any human emotion using these three dimensions or axes. E.g., “admiration” could be considered a positive, aroused, submissive emotion. Or “boredom” could be considered a negative, relaxed, dominant emotion.
The “valence” of emotions is usually pretty straightforward for us to immediately grasp. “Activation” and “power”, though, may not typically spring to mind for most people when trying to analyze emotions. Yet thinking about the activation and power dimensions of any emotion can help us recognize and adapt to emotionally-driven urges and impulses.