Can People Feel Happy and Sad at the Same Time?

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 684-696

13 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2010 Last revised: 19 Feb 2011

See all articles by Jeff T. Larsen

Jeff T. Larsen

Texas Tech University

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing

John T. Cacioppo

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The authors investigated whether people can feel happy and sad at the same time. J. A. Russell and J. M. Carroll's (1999) circumplex model holds that happiness and sadness are polar opposites and, thus, mutually exclusive. In contrast, the evaluative space model (J. T. Cacioppo & G. G. Berntson, 1994) proposes that positive and negative affect are separable and that mixed feelings of happiness and sadness can co-occur. The authors both replicated and extended past research by showing that whereas most participants surveyed in typical situations felt either happy or sad, many participants surveyed immediately after watching the film Life Is Beautiful, moving out of their dormitories, or graduating from college felt both happy and sad. Results suggest that although affective experience may typically be bipolar, the underlying processes, and occasionally the resulting experience of emotion, are better characterized as bivariate.

Suggested Citation

Larsen, Jeff T. and McGraw, A. Peter and Cacioppo, John T., Can People Feel Happy and Sad at the Same Time? (2001). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 684-696, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1554025

Jeff T. Larsen

Texas Tech University ( email )

2500 Broadway
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

A. Peter McGraw (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

John T. Cacioppo

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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