While defining what an emotion actually is can be confusing, so too are the ambiguous and often interchangeable words used to describe and define our psychological states. Yet again, opinions vary, and while there is a difference between ’emotion’, ‘mood’ and ‘affect’, what this difference actually depends on who you are listening to!
Affect is an umbrella term that covers both emotions and moods. It’s your basic sense of feeling , the recognition that what you’re experiencing is either pleasant or unpleasant, or whether you are feeling calm or agitated. Some observers see affect as being the conscious experience of emotion , whereas others take an opposing position, seeing affect as a non-conscious experience . Both stances still regard affect as an abstract concept, something that the more complex ’emotion’ builds on. As it underlies an emotional experience, affect is what drives or forces the resulting emotion.
Emotion is the label you give the affect you are experiencing — for example defining the experience of positive, stimulating arousal as excitement. Emotions don’t arise without reason. They are reactions to and are generally about something. They tend to occur either instantaneously or very soon after this ‘something’ takes place.
Emotions tend to be intense but short-lived feelings which can be accompanied with facial expressions, body language, and physical sensations.They have the potential to turn into, change or create moods.
Moods are not as intense as emotions and can have a less specific, immediate or obvious cause. They generally last longer than the more fleeting emotions — hours or days rather than seconds or minutes. Moods don’t have to closely follow their cause — waking up in a bad mood for example — which can make their source sometimes hard to identify. They can broadly be divided into ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ categories — a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ mood.