Most research focuses on actual affect, or the affective states that people actually feel. In this article, I demonstrate the importance and utility of studying ideal affect, or the affective states that people ideally want to feel. First, I define ideal affect and describe the cultural causes and behavioral consequences of ideal affect. To illustrate these points, I compare American and East Asian cultures, which differ in their valuation of high-arousal positive affective states (e.g., excitement, enthusiasm) and low-arousal positive affective states (e.g., calm, peace-fulness). I then introduce affect valuation theory, which integrates ideal affect with current models of affect and emotion and, in doing so, provides a new framework for understanding how cultural and temperamental factors may shape affect and behavior.
Tsai, J. L. (2007). Ideal affect: Cultural causes and behavioral consequences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(3), 242-259.