Emotions affect how we feel, how we think, what we say and what we do. We represent the objects we encounter and the experiences we have in…terms of our senses; visual, tactile, olfactory (smell), auditory and gustatory (taste). This information is associated with the feeling that was experienced when the information was encountered.
Over time, virtually all representations of objects and experiences cause affective responses and feelings, although many of these feelings may be weak and imperceptible to the conscious mind. (Damasio 2003)
There are a number of ways of differentiating these responses; what we normally call “emotions”. Each way provides us with a different perspective on the effects of “affective states”.
Emotions, Moods, Sentiments and Personality Traits
Desmet (2002) differentiates four types of “affective states”, including emotions, moods, sentiments, and emotional or personality traits. Desmet describes affective states in terms of time and intention.
Emotions and moods are relatively short in duration (i.e. acute), while sentiments and personality traits display themselves over longer periods of time (i.e. dispositional). Emotions are directed AT something, while moods are not directed at anything in particular. Emotions last a short time, ranging from seconds to minutes. They can be elicited (i.e. triggered) by sights, smells, sounds and events in the external environment, or by thoughts and the internal representations of past or future events and experiences.
Moods are affective states that last longer than emotions, usually for hours or days. Moods generally have combined causes rather than being elicited by a particular event. They last a limited amount of time and are directed at the world rather than towards a particular object. (Frijda 1994)
Sentiments are directed AT something. They constitute our attitudes and standards. Sentiments are our likes and dislikes, and they involve a person-object relationship. So, while I might generally be afraid of dogs, (I’m not incidentally) actually being frightened by a dog is a different emotional state. (Frijda 1994) People also display sentiments towards products and brands. “I love Macs” is a good example of a sentiment.
Emotional traits are personality characteristics that manifest for the long term. They are like moods but persist for a long enough time that people can be characterized by their expression. Thus, emotional traits are often called “character” or personality traits, and are generally directed at the world. When states become dispositional, they endure over time through different contexts. This is the case with sentiments and emotional traits. (Desmet 2002)