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1. Nine Basic Affects: Positive Affects, Negative Affects, and Surprise-Startle


  • Be able to describe each affect, how it is activated, how it can be recognized, and its function.
  • Be able to give a personal or clinical example of each affect. Can you recognize the abstract patterns of stimulus density or gradient that triggered the affect?


EA, “The Role of the Specific Affects,” pp. 68-85.

Nathanson S&P, “Feeling Good: The Positive Affects,” Chapter 3, pp. 73-91.

Nathanson S&P, “Surprise-Startle: The Neutral Affect,” Chapter 5, pp. 88-91.

Nathanson S&P, “Feeling Bad: The Negative Affects,” Chapter 6, pp. 92-106.

SAT, James Duffy, “Surprise-Startle, The Macho Script and Nothing,” October 12, 1997.

Bulletin, v4, #1-2-3, 1997, Jeanette Wright, “The Drawn Image: Can the Minding System Be Made Visible,” pp. 16-17.

Bulletin, v3, #1-2, 1996, Melvyn A. Hill, “Survivor Rage,” pp. 9-11.

TT, Melvyn A. Hill, “Negative Therapeutic Reaction II,” September 26, 1997.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What distinguishes startle, fear, and interest?
  2. What accounts for the unstable equilibrium among these three affects?
  3. What is the function of the startle affect?
  4. What is necessary for fear to be magnified? How can drugs affect the fear threshold?
  5. How does interest improve the quality of life?
  6. Why is distress a fundamental human affect?
  7. What factors differentiate distress from fear?
  8. What are the functions of crying for infants?
  9. What factors in adults mask the experience of distress?
  10. Describe three ways a smile can be activated.
  11. What is the general biological significance of social responsiveness?
  12. Why is joy a “luxury response.”

Share your reflection here:

Session 1: Positive Affects, Negative Affects, Surprise-Startle