11-29b+Tsai+2007 - PE R SP EC TI V ES O N P SY CH O L O G I...

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Ideal Affect Cultural Causes and Behavioral Consequences Jeanne L. Tsai Stanford University ABSTRACT— Most research focuses on actual affect , or the affective states that people actually feel. In this article, I demonstrate the importance and utility of studying ideal affect , or the affective states that people ideally want to feel. First, I define ideal affect and describe the cultural causes and behavioral consequences of ideal affect. To il- lustrate these points, I compare American and East Asian cultures, which differ in their valuation of high-arousal positive affective states (e.g., excitement, enthusiasm) and low-arousal positive affective states (e.g., calm, peace- fulness). I then introduce affect valuation theory, which integrates ideal affect with current models of affect and emotion and, in doing so, provides a new framework for understanding how cultural and temperamental factors may shape affect and behavior. Although most people report that they want to feel good (Elliot & Thrash, 2002), people do different things to feel good. Whereas some people ride rollercoasters, listen to pop music, or take stimulants such as cocaine, others sunbathe, listen to classical music, or take narcotics such as heroin. What accounts for these differences in what people do to feel good? Cultural factors may play a role. For instance, Americans are more likely to engage in extreme sports (e.g., inline skating) and are more likely to abuse cocaine (and less likely to abuse opiates) than are their Chinese counterparts (Hong Kong Sports Institute, personal communi- cation, August 8, 2005; Marquand, 2005; Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, 2005; United Nations Office for Drug and Crime, 2006). Even within the United States, Euro- pean Americans are more likely to participate in active sports (e.g., rollerblading) and to use cocaine (relative to opiates) than are Asian Americans (Gobster & Delgado, 1992; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2006; Tinsley, Tinsley, & Croskeys, 2002). In this article, I propose that although most people want to feel good, the good feelings that people specifically strive for depend on the affective states that they value, prefer, and ideally want to feel ( ideal affect ) and that individual and cultural differences in ideal affect account for the differences in mood-producing be- haviors (i.e., what people do to feel good or to stop feeling bad) described above. In the first part of this article, I define ideal affect, examine the cultural causes of ideal affect, and discuss the behavioral consequences of ideal affect. In the second part of this article, I introduce affect valuation theory (AVT), which integrates ideal affect with current models of affect and emotion. By distinguishing ideal affect from actual affect, AVToffers new answers to classic questions about the roles that culture and temperament play in daily life.
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