The expression of determination: similarities between anger and approach-related positive affect. Academic Article uri icon


  • In this set of studies, we examine the perceptual similarities between emotions that share either a valence or a motivational direction. Determination is a positive approach-related emotion, whereas anger is a negative approach-related emotion. Thus, determination and anger share a motivational direction but are opposite in valence. An implemental mind-set has previously been shown to produce high-approach-motivated positive affect. Thus, in Study 1, participants were asked to freely report the strongest emotion they experienced during an implemental mind-set. The most common emotion reported was determination. On the basis of this result, we compared the facial expression of determination with that of anger. In Study 2, naive judges were asked to identify photographs of facial expressions intended to express determination, along with photographs intended to express basic emotions (joy, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, neutral). Correct identifications of intended determination expressions were correlated with misidentifications of the expressions as anger but not with misidentifications as any other emotion. This suggests that determination, a high-approach-motivated positive affect, is perceived as similar to anger. In Study 3, naive judges quantified the intensity of joy, anger, and determination expressed in photographs. The intensity of perceived determination was directly correlated with the intensity of perceived anger (a high-approach-motivated negative affect) and was inversely correlated with the intensity of perceived joy (a low-approach-motivated positive affect). These results demonstrate perceptual similarity between emotions that share a motivational direction but differ in valence.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

altmetric score

  • 3.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Harmon-Jones, C., Schmeichel, B. J., Mennitt, E., & Harmon-Jones, E.

citation count

  • 91

complete list of authors

  • Harmon-Jones, Cindy||Schmeichel, Brandon J||Mennitt, Eileen||Harmon-Jones, Eddie

publication date

  • January 2011