The structure of negative emotion scales: generalization over contexts and comprehensiveness



In this article, we tested whether a four-dimensional individual-difference structure of negative emotions (Sadness, Fear, Anger, Shame) as described e.g. by Diener, Smith and Fujita can be found in self-report data when the emotions are explicitly linked to three different specific contexts. In addition, we check the comprehensiveness of the structure by adding terms people spontaneously use to directly express negative affect.

A situational questionnaire was constructed, based on the emotion terms from Diener et al., and it was administered to 161 participants. The structure we obtained was five dimensional instead of four dimensional: the Shame scale turned out to be two dimensional, with guilt and regret defining one factor, and shame and embarrassment defining another factor. Between these two, there is a moderate positive correlation. The structure is shown to be nearly identical for all three situations. The minor differences we found do contextualize the meaning of the emotional responses.

The newly added terms could be captured quite well by the factor Anger. No separate factor was needed, meaning that the obtained five-dimensional structure may be considered comprehensive enough for the field of negative emotions. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.