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Affect Valuation Index


The Affect Valuation Index (AVI) was developed in 2001 by Jeanne Tsai and Brian Knutson to distinguish between “ideal affect” (the affective states that people value or ideally want to feel) and “actual affect” (the affective states that people actually feel). At the time Tsai and Knutson began their work, most researchers had neglected “ideal affect,” and therefore, Tsai and Knutson had to develop a way of measuring it. 


Development. Because Tsai and Knutson were interested in using their measure in different cultural contexts, they based their measure on the affective circumplex (the mapping of different emotional states into the dimensions of arousal and valence; see Feldman Barrett & Russell, 1999 for discussion; Watson & Tellegen, 1985), which has been replicated across cultures and languages (e.g., Russell, Lewicka, & Nitt, 1989; Russell, 1991). The authors based the AVI on existing measures of actual affect that sampled all of the octants of the affective circumplex (e.g., Feldman-Barrett, 1996; Larsen & Diener, 1992). They experimented with various forms of the AVI before settling on the current version. 

Description and Use. The AVI includes a measure of actual affect and a measure of ideal affect. The measure of actual affect asks respondents to use a 5-point rating scale (1=not at all, 5 = an extreme amount) to indicate how much they actually feel a number of states on average (other time frames can be used such as “over the course of a typical week” “right now”). This measure is almost identical to measures developed by other researchers. The measure of ideal affect asks respondents to use the same rating scale to indicate how much they ideally want to feel the same states on average (other time frames can be used such as “over the course of a typical week” “right now”). In a typical study, we counterbalance the order in which the actual and ideal affect measures are administered. 

Analysis. Because of cultural differences in response styles, we ipsatize participants’ scores (standardize within individual). The AVI includes some items that are not equivalent across cultures and therefore serve as “filler” items in our studies (i.e., they are not calculated in the aggregate scores), which allows us to ipsatize scores. We then create aggregate scores for each octant of the affective circumplex (i.e., high arousal states, high arousal positive states, positive states, low arousal positive states, low arousal states, low arousal negative states, negative states, high arousal negative states) for actual affect and for ideal affect. As a result, we end up with sixteen scores (eight for actual affect, eight for ideal affect). In our studies to date, we have primarily focused on actual and ideal high arousal positive states (actual HAP, ideal HAP) and actual and ideal low arousal positive states (actual LAP, ideal LAP). We recommend using ipsatized scores for cultural group comparisons, but using raw scores when conducting correlational analyses (because ipsatizing can significantly reduce variance). 

Psychometric Properties.  Each actual and ideal affect aggregate shows high internal consistency and moderate-to-high test-retest reliability (one-month and two month). The measure of ideal affect also shows good discriminant validity. Specifically, ideal affect is either weakly or not significantly correlated with prevention focus, promotion focus, sensation seeking, arousal seeking tendency. Consistent with previous research, actual affect is correlated with these individual difference measures. Ideal affect also shows good convergent validity: self-reports of ideal affect are consistent with behavioral measures of ideal affect (e.g., consumer product choices that reflect different affective states). “Ideal affect” is moderately correlated with “should affect” (how people think they should feel), suggesting that they are related, but different constructs. The initial psychometric properties are reported in Tsai, Knutson, & Fung (2006). 

Cultures. The AVI has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, and German. Although it has mainly been used with college students, it has also been used with community samples of diverse ages (18-80). 


Several researchers are currently using the AVI in their work. From our lab, the following papers report findings using the AVI: 

Tsai, J.L. (2007). Ideal affect: Cultural causes and behavioral consequences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 242-259.   

Tsai, J.L., Miao, F., Seppala, E., Fung, H., & Yeung, D. (2007). Influence and adjustment goals: Sources of cultural differences in ideal affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1102-1117.   

Tsai, J.L., Miao, F., & Seppala, E. (2007). Good feelings in Christianity and Buddhism: Religious differences in ideal affect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,33, 409-421.   

Tsai, J.L. Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 288-307.


We are currently collecting more data to examine the generalizability of the AVI for samples that vary in cultural background, age, and socioeconomic status. We are also developing a measure of avoided affect (i.e., the affective states that people want to avoid). 


Like any instrument, the AVI has strengths and limitations. Researchers should seriously consider both before deciding to use the AVI.   

The AVI has several strengths, including: (1) good psychometric properties for the samples studied, (2) easy administration, and (3) easy scoring. In addition, it has been used successfully in various studies and yielded important findings. 

The AVI has several limitations, including: (1) it cannot be used with young children; therefore, we have developed other methods to measure ideal affect in children between the ages of 2-5, (2) at times, participants may be confused about whether they are completing the measure of actual or ideal affect; therefore, it is important to make sure that participants realize that the questionnaires are asking different questions, (3) research assistants may make errors when entering the data, so data should be checked several times, (4) the measure is relatively long and therefore, more complex states like shame, compassion cannot be easily added, and (5) in some cases, researchers may want to describe the meaning of some of the states before administering the instrument. 


You are welcome to use the AVI in your research. We ask that in exchange for using the AVI, you let us know the findings of your studies, and send us any publications of your work with the AVI. To download a copy of the AVI, click here. To download translations of the AVI, click here.


Feldman Barrett, L. (1996). Hedonic tone, perceived arousal, and item desirability: Three components of self-reported mood. Cognition and Emotion19, 47-68. 

Feldman Barrett, L., & Russell, J. A. (1999). The structure of current affect: Controversies and emerging consensus. Psychological Science8, 10-14. 

Larsen, R. J. & Diener, E. (1992). Promises and problems with the circumplex model of emotion. In M. S. Clark (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology: Emotion (pp. 25-59). Newbury Park: Sage. 

Russell, J. A. (1991). Culture and the categorization of emotions. Psychological Bulletin110, 426-450. 

Russell, J.A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological Review110, 145-172. 

Russell, J.A., Lewicka, M., & Nitt, T. (1989). A cross-cultural study of a circumplex model of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology57, 848-856. 

Tsai, J.L. Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology90, 288-307. 

Watson, D., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 219-235.

General Ethnicity Questionnaire


Dr. Tsai first became interested in measuring cultural orientation when she was a graduate student in Dr. Robert Levenson's lab at the University of California, Berkeley. After reviewing the literature, she concluded that existing acculturation inventories were insufficient for a number of reasons. First, they were unidimensional (i.e., they forced individuals to choose a dominant cultural orientation, rather than allowing individuals to be oriented to multiple cultures to equal degrees). Second, they were limited in the cultural domains that they sampled. In an attempt to address these issues, she created the "General Ethnicity Questionnaire" (GEQ). At the time that Dr. Tsai created the GEQ, there were no other instruments that addressed these issues; since the development of the GEQ, however, a number of inventories have been developed to address these issues. 


Development. The General Ethnicity Questionnaire was designed so that it could be used with individuals of different cultural backgrounds, simply by changing the reference culture. The GEQ was adapted from four different pre-existing and commonly used measures of acculturation, the Cultural Life Styles Inventory (Mendoza, 1989), the Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans (Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980), the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Rating Scale (Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987), and the Behavioral Acculturation Scale (Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines, & De Los Angeles Aranade, 1978) 
For review of these measures, click here.

Original and Abridged Versions. There are two versions of the General Ethnicity Questionnaire, one "original" version and one "abridged" version. The "original" version includes: (1) a question asking participants what their "culture" means to them, and (2) 75 multiple choice questions that ask about participants' language use, social affiliation, engagement in cultural practices, and cultural identification. The American version of the questionnaire includes several additional items that assess what "being American" means to respondents. The "abridged" version was developed in collaboration with Yu-Wen Ying and Peter A. Lee for use with Chinese Americans. The "abridged" version includes 37 items (a subset of the original 75 multiple choice questions), plus one item that asks participants whether or not they are bilingual. To date, most studies that have used the GEQ have used the abridged version. Therefore, only the abridged version is available for use at this time. 

Cultures. Versions of the GEQ have been created for different cultures/ethnic groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Chinese Americans, European Americans, Hmong Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and Mexican Americans. In addition, the abridged version of the GEQ has been translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and German. 

Psychometric Properties. The psychometric properties of the GEQ when used with Chinese American young adults are reported in: Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y., & Lee, P.A. (2000). The meaning of "being Chinese" and "being American": Variation among Chinese American young adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31(3), 302-322. pdf

Scientific Use. The GEQ has been used in a number of studies, most often with Chinese Americans. It has been used to describe the cultural orientation of study samples, as well as to assess explicitly the relationship between cultural orientation and various outcome measures (e.g., emotional reactivity, self-esteem). A number of laboratories are currently using the GEQ. 


The following studies report results using the GEQ: 

Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y., & Lee, P.A. (2000). The meaning of "being Chinese" and "being American": Variation among Chinese American young adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31, 302-322. pdf

Ying, Y., Lee, P.A., & Tsai, J.L. (2000). Cultural orientation and racial discrimination: Predictors of coherence in Chinese American young adults. Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 427-442. pdf

Tsai, J.L. (2001). Cultural orientation of Hmong young adults. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 3-4, 99-114. Tsai, J.L., Ying, Y.W., & Lee, P.A. (2001). Cultural predictors of self-esteem: A study of Chinese American female and male young adults. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7, 284-297. pdf

Ying, Y., Lee, P.A., Tsai, J.L., Lee, Y.J., & Tsang, M. (2001). Relationship of young adult Chinese Americans with their parents: Variation by migratory status and cultural orientation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71, 342-349. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Morstensen, H., Wong, Y., & Hess, D. (2002). What does "being American" mean?: Differences between Asian American and European American young adults. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8, 257-273. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Chentsova-Dutton, Y., Friere-Bebeau, L.H., & Przymus, D. (2002). Emotional expression and physiology in European Americans and Hmong Americans. Emotion, 2, 380-397. pdf

Tsai, J.L., Chentsova-Dutton, Y., & Wong, Y. (2002). Why and how we should study ethnic identity, acculturation, and cultural orientation. In G. Hall & S. Okazaki (Eds.). Asian American Psychology: The science of lives in Context (pp. 41-65). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. pdf 

Tsai, J.L., Pole, N., Levenson, R.W., & Munoz, R.F. (2003). The effects of depression on the emotional responses of Spanish-speaking Latinas. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9, 49-63. pdf

Tsai, J.L. & Chentsova-Dutton, Y. (2003). Variation among European Americans in emotional facial expression. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 650-657. 

Tsai, J.L., Simenova, D., & Watanabe, J. (2004). Somatic and social: Chinese Americans talk about emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1226-1238 


Like any instrument, the GEQ has both strengths and limitations. Researchers are strongly advised to consider these strengths and limitations prior to using the GEQ. 

The strengths of the GEQ are that: (1) it samples multiple domains of experience, (2) it has been shown to be reliable and valid with certain samples, and (3) it can be easily adapted for use with different cultures. 

The limitations of the GEQ are: (1) it does not include all domains of experience (e.g., political activity), (2) its psychometric properties are known only for specific groups, and (3) it measures behaviors and practices rather than values and attitudes. 

If you are unsure whether or not to use the GEQ in your research, please contact the author of the GEQ, Jeanne Tsai (jltsai [at] (email)); however, please be aware that it may take several weeks for Dr. Tsai to respond to your inquiries. 


  • To download a copy of the GEQ, click here.
  • To score the GEQ:
    • Scoring the Abridged Version of the GEQ: 
      • All items should be coded so that higher values reflect greater orientation to the culture of interest. For example, in some versions of the GEQ, the language items should be reverse-coded. In latter versions of the GEQ, the rating scale was changed so that the language items no longer needed to be reverse coded. 
      • In all versions of the GEQ, question 5 (“I am embarrassed/ashamed of ____culture”) should be recoded. 
      • Subscores similar to those described in Tsai et al. (2000) can be created if the factor analyses reveal a similar factor structure. To calculate subscores, calculate the mean of the relevant items. 
      • Researchers may also create an overall cultural orientation score by calculating the mean of all of the items.
  • To adapt the GEQ for use with a culture not yet studied by previous researchers:
    • Adapting the GEQ for use with another cultural group is easy. Simply take an existing version of the GEQ and replace the reference culture and language with the culture and language of interest. For example, if you were to take the American version of the GEQ and adapt it for use in France, you would replace “American culture” with “French culture” and “English” with “French.” Depending on the culture you are studying, you may also want to add items to sample domains that are not included in the GEQ.


Cuellar, I., Arnold, B., & Maldonado, R. (1995). Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans-II: A revision of the original ARSMA Scale. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 17, 275-304.

Hofstede, G.H. (1980). Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications. 

Mendoza, R.H. (1989). An empirical scale to measure type and degree of acculturation in Mexican American adolescents and adults. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 20, 372-385. 

Suinn, R.M., Ahuna, C., & Khoo, G. (1992). The Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale: Concurrent and factorial validation. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 52, 1041-1046. 

Suinn, R.M., Rickard-Figueroa, K., Lew, S., & Vigil, P. (1987). The Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale: An initial report. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 47, 401-407. 

Szapocznik, J., Scopetta, M.A., Kurtines, W., & de los Angeles Aranade, M. (1978). Theory and measurement of acculturation. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 12, 113-130.