I recognise the differences between 'affect' and 'effect' as verbs, but I don't apprehend them while they are nouns. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/affect#affect-3:

[mass noun] Psychology Emotion or desire as influencing behaviour.

How does this differ from 'effect' as a noun? An 'effect' can truly be "influencing behaviour"? In this example from Prof Christopher Day, why can't effect be used?
(Actually, affect is used many times on that page proper):

In Western thought, affect and emotion have been distrusted, denigrated, or at least set aside in favor of reason. The tendency to distrust—even deplore—emotion has been aggravated by the rise of professions with their insistence on detachment, distance, cool appraisal, and systematic procedures.

  • As your source says, affect has a specific use in psychology. Effect is a common word used by normal people in everyday, and has absolutely no connotations of emotion or desire or anything psychological (the effect of rain is that I get wet). The sentence that you quote would have a different meaning and be factually incorrect with effect. In Western thought, a lot of importance has been given to (cause and) effect. – oerkelens Aug 4 '14 at 8:29

In addition to the specific psychology definition described above, "affect" is also used in a more general sense to describe a person's outward appearance or personality. Although not very common, "affect" in this sense refers to the mood or emotions can you read in a person's face or body language.

The gambler's flat, emotionless affect served him well at the poker table.

A related term is "affectation," a particular thing or trait a person incorporates as part of how they outwardly display their personality.

It turned out his British accent and tailored London suits were merely affectations; he was really born in Idaho.

Both of these are related to "affect" as a verb, where a person can "affect" a given (fake) personality or emotion.

She affected an air of indifference while in public, keeping her true feelings hidden.


"Effect" as a noun is just the result of some cause. It's a very common word.

"Affect" (note variant pronunciation: as a noun, the emphasis is on the first syllable, AF-fect, not "afFECT" as in the verb) is a term of art in psychology. In formal psychology it means, basically, the experience of emotion, or what it feels like to have an emotion. In applied contexts (like medicine; see def. 5 of the link above) it's short for affect display, or the way a person displays the emotions he or she is having. So it becomes part of terms like "blunted affect," which refers to someone who shows little emotional response to stimulus, for instance as a result of mood-altering drugs, or various mental illnesses.

These words look similar but aren't actually related. Affect derives from Latin "affectus", while effect derives from Latin "efficere". (I'm guessing that Latin derivation is probably why affect as a noun has the stress on the first syllable.)

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