Empirical research on the interconnections between emotions and physical and mental health is flourishing. But this literature favors negative emotions and neglects positive emotions. This imbalance is unfortunate, because few would disagree that positive emotions contribute richly to the quality of life. Yet scientific evidence regarding the extent and mechanisms of the possible health benefits of positive emotions is lacking, and existing models of emotion offer little guidance. Many such models hold that emotions narrow individuals' action tendencies, a view that fits negative emotions better than positive ones. The Principal Investigator offers an alternative model of positive emotions that details their role in promoting personal growth as well as physical and mental health. Positive emotions, this new view holds, broaden an individual's momentary thought- action repertoire: joy creates the urge to play, interest the urge to explore, contentment the urge to savor and integrate. By consequence, positive emotions promote discovery of new actions, ideas, and social bonds, which in turn build that individual's physical, intellectual, and social resources. One key implication of this broaden-and-build model is that positive emotions have a special capacity to undo the physiological activation and narrowed thought-repertoires generated by certain negative emotions. The long-term objective of this research program is to test hypotheses that stem from the broaden-and- build model of positive emotions, and explore connections to both physical and mental health. The four proposed studies mark the first steps toward this objective. Two experiments (Studies 1 and 2) use between-subjects experimental designs to induce emotions (joy, contentment, anger, sadness, and neutrality) and test the hypotheses that positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and action tendencies, whereas negative emotions narrow these same scopes. A third experiment (Study 3) induces anxiety in all participants, measures the effects on scope of attention and cardiovascular reactivity, then, using a between-subjects design, tests the hypothesis that positive emotions have a special capacity to broaden the scope of attention and speed cardiovascular recovery in concert. A final experiment (Study 4) tests the hypothesis that activities that are at times used to regulate negative emotions -- such as playing sports, taking nature walks or meditating -- not only elicit positive emotions but also broaden the scopes of attention and action, which in turn enable people to find positive meaning in adverse circumstances.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-4 (01))
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Brandon, Susan
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Ann Arbor
United States
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Fredrickson, Barbara L; Kok, Bethany E (2018) Evidence for the Upward Spiral Stands Steady: A Response to Nickerson (2018). Psychol Sci 29:467-470
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