Cognitive structure and the independence of positive and negative affect

John W. Reich, Alex J. Zautra, Phillip T. Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Research continues to be actively devoted to determination of the degree of independence of two main dimensions of affect, positive and negative. Some research suggests a two-factor model, with independent positive and negative factors, while other studies support a unidimensional or bipolar model. Two studies reported here support both approaches, with cognitive simplicity/complexity as the central determiner of the relationship. Study 1 assessed a sample of 67 college students and Study 2 assessed an older sample of 120 diagnosed chronically-ill patients. Both studies found that cognitively more complex participants reported independent domains of affect, while those who were cognitively simpler reported more highly inversely correlated domains. The chronically-ill patients scored cognitively simpler on the measure of cognitive structure than the college students, suggesting that the stressful effects of chronic pain may lead to greater cognitive simplicity. The data also indicate that it is not general arousal, per se, that creates the inverse relationship, but cognitive simplicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-115
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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