Pleasure, arousal, dominance: Mehrabian and Russell revisited

I.C. Bakker, DJM van der Voordt, J de Boon, P Vink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)
635 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a discursive review of the dimensions pleasure, arousal and dominance that Mehrabian and Russell developed in 1974 to assess environmental perception, experience, and psychological responses. Since then numerous researchers applied these dimensions to assess the experience of the physical environment and its perceived qualities. Although the dimensions appeared to be useful, there is a long-lasting debate going on among environmental psychologists about the interpretation of pleasure, arousal and dominance and its underlying mechanisms. Due to the lack of clarity researchers use different adjectives to describe environmental experiences, which makes any comparison between research findings difficult.
This paper shows that the three dimensions can be linked to the current ABC Model of Attitudes: pleasure, arousal and dominance can be respectively related to affective, cognitive and conative responses , i.e. Affect, Cognition and Behaviour (ABC). In addition, connecting the three dimensions to the triad feeling, thinking and acting, can also help to improve our understanding, interpretation and measurement of pleasure, arousal and dominance. Based on this review, it is proposed to re-introduce the three dimensions and to replace the nowadays often used two dimensional model with pleasure and arousal by a three dimensional model, including dominance as a third dimension, to represent the complete range of human responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-421
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Psychology: a journal for diverse perspectives on diverse psychological issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • pleasure
  • arousal
  • dominance
  • ABC psychology
  • tripartite view of feeling
  • thinking
  • acting
  • experience


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