The Pursuit of Happiness: Coaching Assessment and Research

Jaede Ohlrich & Dr. Michael Cherry

Introduction to the SPANE Assessment

The pursuit of happiness associated with human well-being has been central theme in literature, philosophy, and theology throughout history. Positive psychology has studied the psychological processes that serve as the basis in the search for happiness promoting greater well-being. Different forms of survey and assessments have been evaluated to measure happiness and well-being, including satisfaction with life, positive and negative effect, and personal growth and development (Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón, 2020). “Positive psychology is an emphasis on the scientific study of what is right, rather than what is wrong, with people. It includes research on hope, happiness, strengths, resilience, courage, and other positive aspects of human functioning and flourishing” (Biswas-Diener, 2010, p.4).

A basic way to assess how a client is “doing” is to measure her emotional state. This can be done a single time, to assess current feelings, or it can be done over a span of time, to identify emotional leanings. The Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE) Copyright © January 2009 by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener was created as a simple scale for positive and negative emotional experience.  The scale shows good psychometric properties including reliability scores.

SPANE Assessment

The assessment starts by asking the client to think about what they have been doing and experiencing during the past month. The client reports how much they experienced a set of feelings, using a scale from 1 to 5. Biswas-Diner (2010) states the measure can be used to derive an overall score and it can also be divided into positive and negative feelings scales. Outlined below are the feeling descriptions and the numeric value to be assigned to each feeling.

1 = Very rarely or never 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Very often or always _____ Positive _____ Negative _____ Good _____ Bad _____ Pleasant _____ Unpleasant _____ Happy _____ Sad _____ Afraid _____ Joyful _____ Angry _____ Contented

Positive Feelings (SPANE-P): Add the scores, varying from 1 to 5, for the six items: positive, good, pleasant, happy, joyful, and content. The score can vary from 6 (lowest possible) to 30 (highest positive feelings score).

Negative Feelings (SPANE-N): Add the scores, varying from 1 to 5, for the six items: negative, bad, unpleasant, sad, afraid, and angry. The score can vary from 6 (lowest possible) to 30 (highest negative feelings score).

Affect Balance (SPANE-B): The negative feelings score is subtracted from the positive feelings score, and the resultant difference score can vary from –24 (unhappiest possible) to 24 (highest affect balance possible). A respondent with a very high score of 24 reports that she or he rarely or never experiences any negative feelings, and very often or always has positive feelings (Biswas-Diner, 2010, p.107).

Article Summary

“Well-being has been measured based on different perspectives in positive psychology. However, it is necessary to measure effects and emotions correctly and to explore the independence of positive and negative effect. This cross-sectional study adapts and validates the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE) with a non-probabilistic sample of 821 Spanish adults” (Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón, 2020, p.1). The SPANE assessment is used worldwide to measure emotions and affects and has been validated in many studies across 13 countries (Jovanović, et al., 2021). The authors of the SPANE incorporated two aspects to improve the assessment of effect. First, framing response options in terms of the amount of time the person experiences each emotion, related to well-being. Second, limiting the period to the past four weeks, which improves recall of effect (Biswas-Diner, 2010).

The SPANE has shown promising psychometric properties including reliability, validity, and gender measurement invariance in different populations, and has allowed researchers to test people’s well-being and happiness (Espejo, et al., 2020). Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón (2020) adapts the SPANE to the Spanish population and study its psychometric properties with a large Spanish sample. Additionally, they studied the SPANE’s measurement comparing gender and evaluated its factor structure, used test-retest reliability, and evaluated correlations with the extent to which people experienced a positive sense of feelings.

Article Significance

Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón (2020) results conclude that the Spanish adaptation of the SPANE has comparable results to those in previous countries. The Spanish population and researchers can benefit from this easy-to-understand scale and can be implemented as an efficient and valuable tool for the measure of perceived well-being with invariance by gender.

There are additional valuable implications for this study regarding the use of this scale, for example, it can be used to evaluate the efficacy of interventions on health. Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries can benefit from the assessment for the benefit of interventions aiming to improve well-being and use it to measure the positive effects. An example shared by Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón (2020), referenced studies of how a six-week yoga intervention can improve positive effect (SPANE scores) in different populations and settings.

Article Review

Prompted by my Coaching Methodologies Course focusing on Appreciative Coaching and references to the theoretical foundation of Positive Psychology, I wanted to find a peer-reviewed journal article focusing on a coaching assessment that compliments life-coaching with an appreciative or positive coaching approach. In my searching, I found reference to Practicing positive psychology coaching: assessment, activities, and strategies for success by Robert Biswas-Diener. Upon further searching peer reviewed articles focused on the SPANE assessment.

The introduction of the article reviewed by Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón (2020) was clear in outlining the historical link to Positive Psychology. Additionally, credit has been given to the design of the scale of positive and negative experiences for framing response options in terms of the amount of time the person experiences each emotion and limiting the period across a set time. The authors provided an illustration of the assessment along with research perspectives involving eudemonic and hedonic well-being. The eudemonic perspective associates the well-being of the individual with the development of human potential; well-being is intrinsically linked to the performance of activities congruent with the deep values. The hedonic perspective links the well-being that people link to the satisfaction they experience in their lives and the balance between positive and negative effects.

I appreciated the reference the authors made to different research perspectives such as Positive psychology studying the psychological processes that promote greater well-being and different constructs for satisfaction with life, and personal growth and development. The authors also reinforce the philosophy of Aristotle the Greek philosopher, “Aristotle already held that happiness should involve feeling emotions that people consider appropriate given their needs and motives. The Aristotelian model proposes that such people would be happier the more they feel the emotion they desire, even though that emotion is unpleasant” (Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón, p.2, 2020). This resonated with me in my learnings related to feelings and how all feelings are a necessary part of being human. There are many books and podcasts related to self-care that cite the importance and evidence of emotions or feelings to personal well-being (Begum, 2019). This is further explored in coaching from a humanistic perspective. “For coaching, the purpose of gaining clarity and fuller awareness (of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in addition to what is in the client’s environment) is an initial step toward the desired result of action” (Stober and Grant, 2006, p.19).

While the data analysis reviewed in the journal article was complex, the findings were summarized in a complete way to aid the reader in reviewing the essential information.

Findings from this study show that the version of the SPANE among Spaniards has good construct, convergent, and concurrent validity, as well as good temporal stability, reliability (Composite Reliability Index and Average Variance Extracted Index), and scalar invariance for gender. The best model for the SPANE for Spaniards is the one that proposes a structure of two related factors, with positive and negative effects highly correlated, but different from each other. This high correlation between the two types of effects has also been found in the original version and in the Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, and Mexican adaptations. Further, the study found that the model with two correlated factors with correlated errors had the best fit, which is in line with the Chinese validation of the SPANE. Positive and negative feelings are statistically separable into two strongly inversely correlated factors even when measurement error is controlled for (Espejo, Checa, Perales-Puchalt, and Lisón, 2020, p.10).

Recommendations for Future Research

While this study and others on the SPANE assessment provide a gender-balanced, and geographically dispersed analysis, there is little to no studies of this in the United States of America. Future studies of emotional well-being in can benefit from the use of this scale, and new studies can test cross-cultural variance.


Begum, T. (2019) Mental Health Awareness Week 11: self-care podcasts you need to hear. Women’s Health Magazine.

Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing positive psychology coaching: assessment, activities, and strategies for success. Wiley.

Espejo, B., Checa, I., Perales-Puchalt, J., and Lisón, J. F. (2020). Validation and Measurement Invariance of the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE) in a Spanish General Sample. International Journal of Environmental    Research and Public Health, 17(22),

Jovanović, V., Joshanloo, M., Martín-Carbonell, M., Caudek, C., Espejo, B., Checa, I., Krasko, J., Kyriazos, T., Piotrowski, J., Rice, S. P. M., Junça Silva, A., Singh, K., Sumi, K., Tong, K. K., Yıldırım, M., & Żemojtel-Piotrowska, M. (2021). Measurement Invariance of the Scale of               Positive and Negative Experience Across 13 Countries. Assessment.

Stober, D. R., and Grant, A. (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook putting best practices to work for your clients. John Wiley and Sons.

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