Affection is a "disposition or rare state of mind or body" that is often associated with a feeling or type of love. It has given rise to a number of branches of philosophy and psychology concerning: emotion (popularly: love, devotion etc.); disease; influence; state of being (philosophy); and state of mind (psychology). "Affection" is popularly used to denote a feeling or type of love, amounting to more than goodwill or friendship. Writers on ethics generally use the word to refer to distinct states of feeling, both lasting and spasmodic. Some contrast it with passion as being free from the distinctively sensual element.
More specifically, the word has been restricted to emotional states, the object of which is a person. In the former sense, it is the Greek "pathos" and as such it appears in the writings of French philosopher René Descartes, Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and most of the writings of early British ethicists. However, on various grounds (e.g., that it does not involve anxiety or excitement and that it is comparatively inert and compatible with the entire absence of the sensuous element), it is generally and usefully distinguished from passion. In this narrower sense the word has played a great part in ethical systems, which have spoken of the social or parental affections as in some sense a part of moral obligation. For a consideration of these and similar problems, which depend ultimately on the degree in which the affections are regarded as voluntary, see H. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics pp. 345–349.
Numerous behaviors are used by people to express affection. Some theories suggest that affectionate behavior evolved from parental nurturing behavior due to its associations with hormonal rewards with research verifying that expressions of affection, although commonly evaluated positively, can be considered negative if they pose implied threats to one's well being. Furthermore, affectionate behavior in positively valenced relationships may be associated with numerous health benefits. Other, more loving type gestures of affectionate behavior include obvious signs of liking a person.
In psychology the terms affection and affective are of great importance. As all intellectual phenomena have by experimentalists been reduced to sensation, so all emotion has been and is regarded as reducible to simple mental affection, the element of which all emotional manifestations are ultimately composed. The nature of this element is a problem that has been provisionally, but not conclusively, solved by many psychologists; the method is necessarily experimental, and all experiments on feeling are peculiarly difficult. The solutions proposed are two. In the first, all affection phenomena are primarily divisible into those that are pleasurable and those that are the reverse. The main objections to this are that it does not explain the infinite variety of phenomena, and that it disregards the distinction that most philosophers admit between higher and lower pleasures. The second solution is that every sensation has its specific affective quality, though by reason of the poverty of language many of these have no name. W. Wundt, Outlines of Psychology (trans. C. H. Judd, Leipzig, 1897), maintains that we may group under three main affective directions, each with its negative, all the infinite varieties in question; these are (a) pleasure, or rather pleasantness, and displeasure, (b) tension and relaxation, (c) excitement and depression. These two views are antithetic and no solution has been discovered.
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