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Affect is a synonym for feeling. The word is sometimes contrasted with cognition, consisting of the processes responsible for assigning meaning to a stimulus. However, affect is an important component of meaning, and humans can cognitively process affective stimuli. Accordingly, it makes sense to consider affect as a type of meaning—one related to pleasantness versus unpleasantness. Affect is present in mood and emotion, but it is additionally present in external stimuli. Thus, affect encompasses a broad range of phenomena with demonstrated clinical significance. This entry sorts through some of these phenomena.

Affect as a Stimulus Feature

A table is a relatively neutral object, but there are many other objects that possess stronger affective properties. A playful-looking puppy typically elicits positive affect, whereas a big, hairy spider ...

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