Measuring emotions at work
School of Psychology, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia
As the earlier chapters in this book demonstrate, it is not easy to separate emotion from other states such as moods or enduring emotional states arising from temperament (e.g. anxiety). Table 5.1 maps out a framework for distinguishing potential signifiers of emotions. It is a conceptual convenience to separate the signifiers because, within the person, all these variables are interrelated with each having an influence on every other. Pure emotions are conventionally associated with affect, of course, but their presence is also indicated through physiological changes which bring about symptomatic responses such as sweating, changes in facial expression, skin colour, etc. These are accompanied by changes in behaviour associated with the emotion, including changes in cognitive functioning which may in turn bring about a change in emotion.
All these different classes of signifiers can vary in duration as indicated in the table. Emotions are usually distinguished from moods by the fact that they are of shorter duration lasting minutes or hours, but as the table indicates the same sorts of feelings/emotions can last for days or weeks. When particular feelings are very common in a person's life they can be conceived as a trait such as anxiety or happiness. In an excellent review of the literature on subjective well-being (Diener, Suh, & Smith, 1999) conclude with this description of the happy person: “We would emphasize the happy person is blessed with a positive temperament, tends to look on the bright side of things, and does not ruminate excessively about bad events, and is living in an economically developed society, has social confidants, and possesses adequate resources for making progress towards valued goals” (Diener et al., 1999, p. 295). Whilst this clearly reflects a positive emotional state, measures of subjective well-being are regarded here as a characteristic of the person, rather than of an emotional state itself.