Affect Control Theory

Affect Control Theory is a mathematical theory linking culture with social behavior.  It was developed beginning in the 1960s and 1970s by David R. Heise. The theory is both formal and grounded and is fundamentally contained in three parts: the first is a measurement structure that allows indexing of cultural sentiments toward social concepts along three affect dimensions -- evaluation (good/bad), potency (powerful/weak), and activity (lively/still). The second is a set of event reaction equations that distill the basic rules guiding responses to social events. The third is a mathematical statement of the affect control process by which social actors seek to preserve the affective meanings arising from their social interpretations. Affect control theory enables researchers to measure, predict, and model how social interactions unfold in specified cultural settings.


The theory makes testable predictions about behavior, emotion, and social interpretation in the context of interpersonal events. Scholars around the world have tested and applied the theory in more than 100 published articles, books, and chapters. This website contains data, software, and other resources for researchers, students, instructors, and others interested in learning more about the theory and making use of its tools. This site is intended to be a companion to David Heise’s ACT site at Indiana University and duplicates some of the information from that site, with permission.