Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS)
By Maggie Bowman
Psychology Research Assistant
✅ Coming soon on Bravely Connect
The PANAS is a self-report measure used to assess levels of positive and negative affect. It consists of 20 items asking the extent to which the respondent has experienced different emotions during a given timeframe. There are two scores generated from the two scales included in the PANAS: one for positive affect (PA) and one for negative affect (NA). Total scores for each scale are calculated via the summation of each item assessing its respective factor. The potential scores for the PANAS range from 10 to 50 for each of the PA and NA scales. Higher scores represent higher levels of that affect. Limitations for the PANAS include its inability to diagnose any specific disorder and its limited cross-cultural applicability. Even with these limitations, the PANAS may be helpful for efficiently tracking patients’ levels of positive and negative emotions.
📏 Lengths: 20 questions
📋 Administration: Self-administered
🎯 Uses: Assess current level of positive and negative affect
⚠️ Important Caveats: Not used for diagnosis
✅ Available in Bravely Connect? Yes
🌏 Culturally Applicable? Not exactly. Some languages don't have exact equivalents for PANAS items and items occasionally relate to factors with different intensities in other cultures.
The PANAS Question type and length
The client is presented with 20 questions asking the extent to which they have experienced different emotions during a given timeframe. The original study developing the PANAS investigated several different timeframes in which one would assess their moods: in the moment, during that day, the past few days, the past week, the past few weeks, the past year, and in general (Watson et al., 1988).
Each question has the same selection of answers: a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (very slightly or not at all) to 5 (extremely). Half of the items assess levels of positive emotions (i.e., "strong,” “enthusiastic,” and “inspired”) while the other half assess negative emotions (i.e., "distressed," "hostile," and “ashamed”).
Here’s an example of items from the PANAS and the range of answers:
Indicate the extent you have felt this way over the past week.
Very slightly or not at all
Quite a bit
Very slightly or not at all
Quite a bit
For the full list of questions check out the measures on Bravely Connect, or follow the following link to the original unautomated version: PANAS
What does the PANAS measure
The PANAS measures two dimensions of affect: positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). Positive affect refers to positive, pleasant moods such as enthusiasm, activeness, and alertness while negative affect refers to distressed and irritable moods such as anger, fear, and nervousness (Watson et al., 1988). While the constructs of PA and NA may sound like they are simply opposite ends of a single emotional spectrum, the PANAS measures the two affective states as distinct dimensions.
The PANAS contains 20 items with ten assessing PA and the other ten assessing NA. The PA and NA items are scored separately to generate two scores measuring their respective factors.
PANAS Factor structure
The PANAS ostensibly measures positive affect and negative affect as separate, independent factors. However, the overall body of research on the internal structure of the PANAS is inconclusive. Where Watson et al. claims independence between PA and NA (1988), other studies have found mild negative correlations between the two factors (Crawford & Henry, 2004). Studies of the PANAS in Japan and South Korea have found positive correlations between PA and NA, indicating potential cultural differences in relationships between the affective states (Lim et al., 2010). Some studies have also found evidence for second-order factors for the NA scale where factors group into clusters that can be described as “upset” and “afraid” (Wedderhoff et al., 2021).
The history and theory behind the PANAS
The PANAS was created by mood researchers David Watson, Lee Anna Clark, and Auke Tellegen in 1988. Watson et al. (1988) were motivated to create the PANAS due to perceived shortcomings in the contemporary measures for positive and negative affect; some scales lacked convergent validity while others were constructed with minimal reliability or validity data. To develop the PANAS, the authors began with 60 words describing different mood states and eventually found twenty terms to effectively measure the PA and NA constructs. With two scales, the PANAS intends to measure PA and NA as independent factors. Since its creation, the PANAS has spawned several variations such as the PANAS-X (extended version with 60 items), PANAS-C (27-item PANAS for use with children), and I-PANAS-SF (10-item PANAS optimized for international use).
PANAS Scoring Interpretation
Scores for the PANAS are calculated by summing the ratings for each set of items on the questionnaire. The 10 positive affect (PA) items are summed to obtain a PA score, and the 10 negative affect (NA) items are summed to obtain an NA score. Higher scores on each scale indicate higher levels of engagement within that particular affect.
The potential scores for the PANAS range from 10 to 50 for each of the PA and NA scales. A score of 10 would indicate the lowest possible level of positive or negative affect, while a score of 50 would indicate the highest possible level. The scores can be used to compare levels of PA and NA between individuals or over time within an individual.
A high PA score indicating positive engagement with one’s environment may result from someone who feels energized, motivated, and focused; low PA would be indicative of sadness and lethargy (Watson et al., 1988). Low PA can also be likened to anhedonia (Crawford & Henry, 2004). High levels of NA indicate feelings of negative engagement with one’s environment such as anger, disgust, and nervousness, whereas low levels of NA would indicate a lack of negative engagement—calmness and serenity (Watson et al., 1988).
As the PANAS is not a diagnostic instrument, there are no cutoff scores or categorizations for resulting scores.
Who developed the measures, licensing and how to obtain the PANAS
The PANAS was created by mood researchers David Watson, Lee Anna Clark, and Auke Tellegen in 1988 with the goal of effectively measuring both positive and negative affect in one single measure.
The PANAS is free to use for non-profit research purposes. Those seeking to use the PANAS for commercial purposes are advised to get in touch with the American Psychological Association (APA) Permissions Office. Please click here for information on how to contact the APA Permissions Office.
The PANAS is available on Bravely Connect as part of our automated measures. See the PANAS on Bravely Connect →
Limitations, biases and when you should/shouldn’t use the PANAS
The PANAS is a self-report measure that assesses respondents’ levels of positive and negative affect. While the PANAS is capable of measuring positive and negative affect, it is not a diagnostic instrument and there are no score cutoffs for either scale. The PANAS may be useful for tracking fluctuations in clients’ moods and senses of positive or negative engagement with their surroundings. Watson et al. (1988) note that when asked to report feelings in the moment, PA scores tend to fluctuate based on what time of day the respondent answers the questionnaire; PA rises in the mornings, remains steady during the day, and declines in the evenings.
Evidence for cross-cultural applicability of the PANAS is limited. The PANAS has been translated into several different languages, but some translations may not be exact semantic replicas of the original English version. For example, Mihic et al. (2014) noted that there is no straightforward Serbian translation for “distressed.” The internal structure of the PANAS may also vary between cultures. In a study comparing American and Singaporean samples, the “excited” and “proud” items were less related to the latent PA factor in the Singaporean sample than the American sample (Lee et al., 2019). The “guilty,” “ashamed,” and “hostile” items were also less related to NA in the Singaporean sample. Another study comparing an American sample to an Arabic-speaking sample found that the “scared” item was less associated with NA, likely due to “scared” having connotations of being a fleeting feeling as opposed to a long-term affective state (Davis et al., 2020).
As with many measures developed and validated in Western cultures, we recommend that the PANAS be used in conjunction with comprehensive clinical assessments taking a client’s unique sociocultural background into consideration.
As always, if you’ve found a measure you would like adding to Bravely Connect as an automated measure, just drop us a measure request here.
Utilise tech to optimise your therapy
Bravely Connect is the tech-forward solution to save therapists time and maximise client engagement and therapeutic alliance. Say goodbye to boring admin. Start with Bravely and discover how we can improve your practice.
Tech for therapists
Behind Bravely is a team of passionate and determined researchers, psychologists, designers and developers — who are, above all, human beings who know what it’s like to struggle with their mental health.
bravely.io · linkedin · instagram