Dr David Hegarty
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988) is a 20-item self- report measure to assess positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). PA is associated with pleasurable engagement with the environment, whereas NA reflects a dimension of general distress summarising a variety of negative states such as anger, guilt, or anxiety. The PANAS is a useful tool for therapists who are interested in tracking changes in positive and negative emotions for clients from week to week as they engage in day-to-day life. The PANAS is sensitive to momentary changes in affect and can be used to chart the immediate effects of therapy sessions as well as outcomes associated with positive psychological interventions, exercises, or activities.
The PANAS has been reported to have very good internal consistency reliability, with alphas ranging from 0.85 to 0.90 for Positive Affect and from 0.84 to 0.87 for Negative Affect (Crawford & Henry, 2004; Heubeck & Wilkinson, 2019). Test–retest reliability is good over an 8-week time period, with correlations of 0.54 for momentary Positive Affect, 0.45 for momentary Negative Affect.
Since the introduction of the PANAS, many studies examined its factorial validity using exploratory (EFA) or confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and have come to different conclusions about which measurement model fits best (Wedderhoff et al., 2021). A meta- analysis from 47 independent studies using over 54,000 participants (Wedderhoff et al., 2021) found a correlated two-factor model including error correlations within content categories provided the best fit for all samples.
Based upon a large sample of non-clinical Australian adult (18 to 50 years old) respondents on both the state (n = 1059) version of the PANAS (Heubeck & Wilkinson, 2019), means and standard deviations were determined:
- Positive Affect: 26.48 (8.1)
- Negative Affect: 14.80 (5.49)
Scoring and Interpretation
The PANAS score is separated into the Positive Affect (PA) and Negative Affect (NA) scores, with a higher score indicating more positive or negative affect respectively. Note, that although a very high score on the PA scale is worthy of attention (i.e. manic patients will typically score very highly on PA), the principal clinical concern will be with patients who show very low levels of positive affect (i.e. are anhedonic) and thus obtain low percentile ranks. In contrast, a high score on the NA (and a high percentile) is an indicator of psychological distress.
Normative data was collected from over 1,000 Australian adults and is used to calculate percentiles. A percentile rank of 50 indicates an average level of positive or negative affectivity in comparison to the normative group.
There are two subscales of the PANAS:
- Positive Affect (items 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, and 19). Higher scores represent higher levels of PA and are associated with pleasurable engagement with the environment.
- Negative Affect Sore (items 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, and 20). Higher scores represent higher levels of NA and reflect a dimension of general distress summarising a variety of negative states such as anger, guilt, or anxiety.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1243
Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2004). The positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS): construct validity, measurement properties and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. The British Journal of Clinical Psychology / the British Psychological Society, 43(Pt 3), 245–265. https://doi.org/10.1348/0144665031752934
Heubeck, B. G., & Wilkinson, R. (2019). Is all fit that glitters gold? Comparisons of two, three and bi-factor models for Watson, Clark & Tellegen’s 20-item state and trait PANAS. Personality and Individual Differences, 144, 132–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.03.002