Extrapolating from B. L. Fredrickson's (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, the authors hypothesized that positive emotions are active ingredients within trait resilience. U.S. college students (18 men and 28 women) were tested in early 2001 and again in the weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Mediational analyses showed that positive emotions experienced in the wake of the attacks— gratitude, interest, love, and so forth—fully accounted for the relations between (a) precrisis resilience and later development of depressive symptoms and (b) precrisis resilience and postcrisis growth in psychological resources. Findings suggest that positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving, consistent with the broaden-and-build theory. Discussion touches on implications for coping.
Based on Fredrickson's ((1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.; (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226) broaden-and-build theory and Aron and Aron's ((1986). Love as expansion of the self: Understanding attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere) self-expansion theory, it was hypothesized that positive emotions broaden people's feelings of self–other overlap in the beginning of a new relationship. In a prospective study of first-year college students, we found that, after 1 week in college, positive emotions predicted increased self–other overlap with new roommates, which in turn predicted a more complex understanding of the roommate. In addition, participants who experienced a high ratio of positive to negative emotions throughout the first month of college reported a greater increase in self–other overlap and complex understanding than participants with a low positivity ratio. Implications for the role of positive emotions in the formation of new relationships are discussed.
Positive emotions; relationships; self–other overlap; broaden-and-build
Theory indicates that resilient individuals “bounce back” from stressful experiences quickly and effectively. Few studies, however, have provided empirical evidence for this theory. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (B. L. Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) is used as a framework for understanding psychological resilience. The authors used a multimethod approach in 3 studies to predict that resilient people use positive emotions to rebound from, and find positive meaning in, stressful encounters. Mediational analyses revealed that the experience of positive emotions contributed, in part, to participants’ abilities to achieve efficient emotion regulation, demonstrated by accelerated cardiovascular recovery from negative emotional arousal (Studies 1 and 2) and by finding positive meaning in negative circumstances (Study 3). Implications for research on resilience and positive emotions are discussed.
B. L. Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions asserts that people’s daily experiences of positive emotions compound over time to build a variety of consequential personal resources. The authors tested this build hypothesis in a field experiment with working adults (n = 139), half of whom were randomly-assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation. Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms). In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms. Discussion centers on how positive emotions are the mechanism of change for the type of mind-training practice studied here and how loving-kindness meditation is an intervention strategy that produces positive emotions in a way that outpaces the hedonic treadmill effect.
emotions; meditation; positive psychology; broaden-and-build; mindfulness
For centuries, folk theory has promoted the idea that positive emotions are good for your health. Accumulating empirical evidence is providing support for this anecdotal wisdom. We use the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 1998; 2001) as a framework to demonstrate that positive emotions contribute to psychological and physical well-being via more effective coping. We argue that the health benefits advanced by positive emotions may be instantiated in certain traits that are characterized by the experience of positive emotion. Towards this end, we examine individual differences in psychological resilience (the ability to bounce back from negative events by using positive emotions to cope) and positive emotional granularity (the tendency to represent experiences of positive emotion with precision and specificity). Individual differences in these traits are examined in two studies, one using psychophysiological evidence, the second using evidence from experience sampling, to demonstrate that positive emotions play a crucial role in enhancing coping resources in the face of negative events. Implications for research on coping and health are discussed.
Resilience, i.e., the ability to cope with stress and adversity, relies heavily on judging adaptively complex situations. Judging facial emotions is a complex process of daily living that is important for evaluating the affective context of uncertain situations, which could be related to the individual's level of resilience. We used a novel experimental paradigm to test the hypothesis that highly resilient individuals show a judgment bias towards positive emotions.
65 non-treatment seeking subjects completed a forced emotional choice task when presented with neutral faces and faces morphed to display a range of emotional intensities across sadness, fear, and happiness.
Overall, neutral faces were judged more often to be sad or fearful than happy. Furthermore, high compared to low resilient individuals showed a bias towards happiness, particularly when judging neutral faces.
This is a cross-sectional study with a non-clinical sample.
These results support the hypothesis that resilient individuals show a bias towards positive emotions when faced with uncertain emotional expressions. This capacity may contribute to their ability to better cope with certain types of difficult situations, perhaps especially those that are interpersonal in nature.
Emotion perception; Resilience; Facial expressions; Neutral faces
The broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) predicts that positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and cognition, thereby facilitating the building of personal resources and initiating upward spirals toward increasing emotional well-being. This study attempts to replicate and extend previous empirical support for this model. Using a sample of 185 undergraduates, we assessed whether positive affect and broad-minded coping, interpersonal trust, and social support reciprocally and prospectively predict one another over a two-month period, and whether this upward spiral might be partially based in changes in dopaminergic functioning. As hypothesized, PA and positive coping did mutually build on one another, as did PA and interpersonal trust. Contrary to expectation, PA did not demonstrate an upward spiral relation with social support. Results suggest further study of the relationship between PA and changes in dopamine metabolite levels over time is warranted.
Emotion; Coping; Broaden-and-build; Affect; Trust
Aim of the study
To investigate into the mechanisms of resiliency in women after mastectomy. We hypothesized that the mechanism of resiliency in women with breast cancer would involve facilitation of adaptive coping strategies and inhibition of maladaptive strategies. We tested a mediational model in which resiliency was related to satisfaction with life through coping strategies.
Material and methods
Thirty women after mastectomy aged 28–69 years (M = 53.23, SD = 9.00) completed the Ego Resiliency Scale, Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale, and Satisfaction with Life Scale.
The bootstrapping technique revealed that there were significant indirect effects for positive reframing (95% CI: 0.01–0.36), hopelessness/helplessness (95% CI: 0.18–0.83) and anxious preoccupation (95% CI: 0.001–0.55) but not for fighting spirit. The models explained up to 33% of the variance in satisfaction with life.
Coping strategies fully explain the effect of resiliency on satisfaction with life in women after mastectomy. This finding provides additional evidence of the fundamental role of coping strategies in the mechanisms of resiliency. We obtained similar results in patients with type II diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The lack of significant associations of fighting spirit with resiliency suggests that this coping strategy may be beneficial for somatic health but its contribution to the mechanisms of psychological resiliency is complex.
breast cancer; resiliency; positive emotions; coping strategies; satisfaction with life
Field studies and laboratory experiments have documented that a key component of resilience is emotional flexibility – the ability to respond flexibly to changing emotional circumstances. In the present study we tested the hypotheses that resilient people exhibit emotional flexibility: a) in response to frequently changing emotional stimuli; and b) across multiple modalities of emotional responding. As participants viewed a series of emotional pictures, we assessed their self-reported affect, facial muscle activity, and startle reflexes. Higher trait resilience predicted more divergent affective and facial responses (corrugator and zygomatic) to positive versus negative pictures. Thus, compared with their low resilient counterparts, resilient people appear to be able to more flexibly match their emotional responses to the frequently changing emotional stimuli. Moreover, whereas high trait resilient participants exhibited divergent startle responses to positive versus negative pictures regardless of the valence of the preceding trial, low trait resilient participants did not exhibit divergent startle responses when the preceding picture was negative. High trait resilient individuals, therefore, appear to be better able than are their low-resilient counterparts to either switch or maintain their emotional responses depending on whether the emotional context changes. The present findings broaden our understanding of the mechanisms underlying resilience by demonstrating that resilient people are able to flexibly change their affective and physiological responses to match the demands of frequently changing environmental circumstances.
resilience; emotional flexibility; affect; EMG; startle reflex
The study of psychological well-being will advance understanding of child maltreatment effects and resilience processes. In this study, the mean level of anger in adulthood was significantly higher for those identified 3 decades earlier as having been maltreated. Mean levels of self-esteem, autonomy, purpose in life, perceived (fewer) constraints, and happiness and satisfaction were lower for those who were maltreated according to child welfare reports. Officially recorded child maltreatment was moderately (r < .30) correlated with several psychological well-being indicators and predictive of adult anger, self-esteem, autonomy, and happiness/life satisfaction, after accounting for childhood SES, gender, and other sources of data on child abuse and neglect. Parent-reported abusive disciplining also uniquely predicted several outcomes, as did a measure of observed child neglect to a lesser extent.
child maltreatment; child abuse; child neglect; adult psychological well-being
This review integrates Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions with advances in affective neuroscience regarding plasticity in the neural circuitry of emotions to inform the treatment of emotion deficits within psychopathology. We first present a body of research showing that positive emotions broaden cognition and behavioral repertoires, and in so doing, build durable biopsychosocial resources that support coping and flourishing mental health. Next, by explicating the processes through which momentary experiences of emotions may accrue into self-perpetuating emotional systems, the current review proposes an underlying architecture of state-trait interactions that engenders lasting affective dispositions. This theoretical framework is then used to elucidate the cognitive-emotional mechanisms underpinning three disorders of affect regulation, depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. In turn, two mind training interventions, mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation, are highlighted as means of generating positive emotions that may counter the negative affective processes implicated in these disorders. We conclude with the proposition that positive emotions may exert a countervailing force on the dysphoric, fearful, or anhedonic states characteristic of persons with psychopathology typified by emotional dysfunctions.
Emotions; Broaden-and-Build; Mindfulness; Psychopathology; Neuroplasticity
This meta-analysis synthesized studies on emotional well-being as predictor of the prognosis of physical illness, while in addition evaluating the impact of putative moderators, namely constructs of well-being, health-related outcome, year of publication, follow-up time and methodological quality of the included studies. The search in reference lists and electronic databases (Medline and PsycInfo) identified 17 eligible studies examining the impact of general well-being, positive affect and life satisfaction on recovery and survival in physically ill patients. Meta-analytically combining these studies revealed a Likelihood Ratio of 1.14, indicating a small but significant effect. Higher levels of emotional well-being are beneficial for recovery and survival in physically ill patients. The findings show that emotional well-being predicts long-term prognosis of physical illness. This suggests that enhancement of emotional well-being may improve the prognosis of physical illness, which should be investigated by future research.
Meta-analysis; Emotional well-being; Recovery; Survival; Prognosis; Physical illness
This study examined the relationship between life satisfaction among medical students and a basic model of personality, stress and coping. Previous studies have shown relatively high levels of distress, such as symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in medical undergraduates. However despite the increased focus on positive psychological health and well-being during the past decades, only a few studies have focused on life satisfaction and coping in medical students. This is the first longitudinal study which has identified predictors of sustained high levels of life satisfaction among medical students.
This longitudinal, nationwide questionnaire study examined the course of life satisfaction during medical school, compared the level of satisfaction of medical students with that of other university students, and identified resilience factors. T-tests were used to compare means of life satisfaction between and within the population groups. K-means cluster analyses were applied to identify subgroups among the medical students. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression analyses were used to compare the subgroups.
Life satisfaction decreased during medical school. Medical students were as satisfied as other students in the first year of study, but reported less satisfaction in their graduation year. Medical students who sustained high levels of life satisfaction perceived medical school as interfering less with their social and personal life, and were less likely to use emotion focused coping, such as wishful thinking, than their peers.
Medical schools should encourage students to spend adequate time on their social and personal lives and emphasise the importance of health-promoting coping strategies.
Happiness is a key ingredient of well-being. It is thus reasonable to expect that valuing happiness will have beneficial outcomes. We argue that this may not always be the case. Instead, valuing happiness could be self-defeating because the more people value happiness, the more likely they will feel disappointed. This should apply particularly in positive situations, in which people have every reason to be happy. Two studies support this hypothesis. In Study 1, female participants who valued happiness more (vs. less) reported lower happiness when under conditions of low, but not high, life stress. In Study 2, compared to a control group, female participants who were experimentally induced to value happiness reacted less positively to a happy, but not a sad, emotion induction. This effect was mediated by participants’ disappointment at their own feelings. Paradoxically, therefore, valuing happiness may lead people to be less happy just when happiness is within reach.
Resiliency was investigated among well children 6 - 11 years of age (N = 111) whose mothers are living with AIDS or are HIV symptomatic to determine if mother’s HIV status was a risk factor that could effect child resiliency, as well as investigate other factors associated with resiliency. Assessments were conducted with mother and child dyads over 4 time points (baseline, 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups). Maternal illness was a risk factor for resiliency: as maternal viral load increased, resiliency was found to decrease. Longitudinally, resilient children had lower levels of depressive symptoms (by both mother and child report). Resilient children also reported higher levels of satisfaction with coping self-efficacy. A majority of the children were classified as non-resilient; implications for improving resiliency among children of HIV-positive mothers are discussed.
HIV; Resiliency; Child; Maternal Illness
A facet of emotional resilience critical for adapting to adversity is flexible use of emotional resources. We hypothesized that in threatening situations, this emotional flexibility enables resilient people to use emotional resources during appropriately emotional events, and conserve emotional resources during innocuous events. We tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a repeated recovery from threat task with low- and high-trait resilient individuals (LowR and HighR, respectively, as measured by ER89). In an event-related design, 13 HighR and 13 LowR participants viewed ‘threat’ cues, which signaled either an aversive or neutral picture with equal probabilities, or ‘nonthreat’ cues, which signaled a neutral picture. Results show that when under threat, LowR individuals exhibited prolonged activation in the anterior insula to both the aversive and neutral pictures, whereas HighR individuals exhibited insula activation only to the aversive pictures. These data provide neural evidence that in threatening situations, resilient people flexibly and appropriately adjust the level of emotional resources needed to meet the demands of the situation.
resilience; anticipation; recovery; emotion regulation; neuroimaging; threat
This study investigated the resilience resources and coping profiles of diabetes patients. A total of 145 patients with diabetes completed a questionnaire packet including two measurements of coping (COPE and Coping Styles questionnaires), and personal resources. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) was also assessed. Resilience was defined by a factor score derived from measures of self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-mastery, and optimism. All of the maladaptive coping subscales were negatively associated with resilience (r's range from −.34 to −.56, all p's <.001). Of the adaptive coping subscales, only acceptance, emotional support, and pragmatism were positively associated with resilience. The upper, middle, and lower tertiles of the resilience factor were identified and the coping profiles of these groups differed significantly, with low resilience patients favoring maladaptive strategies much more than those with high or moderate resilience resources. Resilience groups did not differ in HbA1c levels; correlation coefficients of the coping subscales with HbA1c were explored. This study demonstrates a link between maladaptive coping and low resilience, suggesting that resilience impacts one's ability to manage the difficult treatment and lifestyle requirements of diabetes.
Diabetes; Resilience; Coping; HbA1c
Converging findings suggest that depressed individuals exhibit disturbances in positive emotion. No study, however, has ascertained which specific positive emotions are implicated in depression. We report two studies that compare how depressive symptoms relate to distinct positive emotions at both trait and state levels of assessment. In Study 1 (N = 185), we examined associations between depressive symptoms and three trait positive emotions (pride, happy, amusement). Study 2 compared experiential and autonomic reactivity to pride, happy, and amusement film stimuli between depressive (n = 24; DS) and non-depressive (n = 31; NDS) symptom groups. Results indicate that symptoms of depression were most strongly associated with decreased trait pride and decreased positive emotion experience to pride-eliciting films. Discussion focuses on the implications these findings have for understanding emotion deficits in depression as well as for the general study of positive emotion.
Depression; Positive emotion; Pride
The study used a daily process design to examine the role of psychological resilience and positive emotions in the day-to-day experience of pain catastrophizing. A sample of 95 men and women with chronic pain completed initial assessments of neuroticism, psychological resilience, and demographic data, and then completed short diaries regarding pain intensity, pain catastrophizing, and positive and negative emotions every day for 14 consecutive days. Multilevel modeling analyses indicated that independent of level of neuroticism, negative emotions, pain intensity, income, and age, high-resilient individuals reported greater positive emotions and exhibited lower day-to-day pain catastrophizing compared with low-resilient individuals. Mediation analyses revealed that psychologically resilient individuals rebound from daily pain catastrophizing through experiences of positive emotion. Implications for research on psychological resilience, pain catastrophizing, and positive emotions are discussed.
pain; catastrophizing; positive emotions; psychological resilience
This study investigated the role of children's emotion regulation skills and academic success in kindergarten, using a sample of 325 five-year-old children. A mediational analysis addressed the potential mechanisms through which emotion regulation relates to children's early academic success. Results indicated that emotion regulation was positively associated with teacher reports of children's academic success and productivity in the classroom and standardized early literacy and math achievement scores. Contrary to predictions, child behavior problems and the quality of the student teacher relationship did not mediate these relations. However, emotion regulation and the quality of the student-teacher relationship uniquely predicted academic outcomes even after accounting for IQ. Findings are discussed in terms of how emotion regulation skills facilitate children's development of a positive student-teacher relationship and cognitive processing and independent learning behavior, both of which are important for academic motivation and success.
emotion regulation; academic success; student-teacher relationship; behavior problems; elementary students
A number of positive psychology interventions have successfully helped people learn skills for improving mood and building personal resources (e.g., psychological resilience and social support). However, little is known about whether intervention activities remain effective in the long term, or whether new resources are maintained after the intervention ends. We address these issues in a 15-month follow-up survey of participants from a loving-kindness meditation intervention. Many participants continued to practice meditation, and they reported more positive emotions (PEs) than those who had stopped meditating or had never meditated. All participants maintained gains in resources made during the initial intervention, whether or not they continued meditating. Continuing meditators did not differ on resources at baseline, but they did show more PE and a more rapid PE response to the intervention. Overall, our results suggest that positive psychology interventions are not just efficacious but of significant value in participants' real lives.
positive emotions; interventions; broaden-and-build; meditation; loving-kindness; adherence; long-term effects; positive emotion reactivity
To review the literature on psychological and biological findings on resilience (i.e. the successful adaptation and swift recovery after experiencing life adversities) at the level of the individual, and to integrate findings from animal and human studies.
Electronic and manual literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and PSYCHINFO, using a range of search terms around biological and psychological factors influencing resilience as observed in human and experimental animal studies, complemented by review articles and cross-references.
The term resilience is used in the literature for different phenomena ranging from prevention of mental health disturbance to successful adaptation and swift recovery after experiencing life adversities, and may also include post-traumatic psychological growth. Secure attachment, experiencing positive emotions and having a purpose in life are three important psychological building blocks of resilience. Overlap between psychological and biological findings on resilience in the literature is most apparent for the topic of stress sensitivity, although recent results suggest a crucial role for reward experience in resilience.
Improving the understanding of the links between genetic endowment, environmental impact and gene–environment interactions with developmental psychology and biology is crucial for elucidating the neurobiological and psychological underpinnings of resilience.
resilience; mental health; psychiatry; epidemiology; neurobiology
In quality-of-life (QL) research, the genetic susceptibility of negative and positive emotions is frequently ignored, taken for granted, or treated as noise. The objectives are to describe: (1) the major findings of studies addressing the heritable and environmental causes of variation in negative and positive emotional states and (2) the major biological pathways of and genetic variants involved in these emotional states.
The heritability estimates for anxiety and depression are 30–40%. Related traits as neuroticism and loneliness are also highly heritable. The hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis is the ‘final common pathway’ for most depressive symptoms. The many findings of investigated genes are promising but not definitive. Heritability estimates of positive emotional states range between 40 and 50%. Life satisfaction and mental health share common genetic factors with optimism and self-esteem. The prefrontal cortex is a candidate brain area for positive emotional states. Biological and genetic research into positive emotional states is scarce.
Genetically informative studies may provide insights into a wide variety of complex questions that traditional QL studies cannot deliver. This insight in turn will help us to design more effective supportive programs that could moderate the outcomes of genetically based predispositions.
Review; Positive emotional states; Negative emotional states; Biological pathways; Genes
Mental health has long been defined as the absence of psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety. The absence of mental illness, however, is a minimal outcome from a psychological perspective on lifespan development. This article therefore focuses on mental illness as well as on three core components of positive mental health: feelings of happiness and satisfaction with life (emotional well-being), positive individual functioning in terms of self-realization (psychological well-being), and positive societal functioning in terms of being of social value (social well-being). The two continua model holds that mental illness and mental health are related but distinct dimensions. This model was studied on the basis of a cross-sectional representative internet survey of Dutch adults (N = 1,340; 18–87 years). Mental illness was measured with the Brief Symptom Inventory and mental health with the Mental Health Continuum Short Form. It was found that older adults, except for the oldest-old, scored lower on psychopathological symptoms and were less likely to be mentally ill than younger adults. Although there were fewer age differences for mental health, older adults experienced more emotional, similar social and slightly lower psychological well-being. In sum, today’s older adults have fewer mental illness problems, but they are not in a better positive mental health than today’s younger adults. These findings support the validity of the two continua model in adult development.
Mental illness; Mental health; Well-being; Lifespan development
This article investigates how personality and cognitive ability relate to measures of objective success (income and wealth) and subjective success (life satisfaction, positive affect, and lack of negative affect) in a representative sample of 9,646 American adults. In cross-sectional analyses controlling for demographic covariates, cognitive ability, and other Big Five traits, conscientiousness demonstrated beneficial associations of small-to-medium magnitude with all success outcomes. In contrast, other traits demonstrated stronger, but less consistently beneficial, relations with outcomes in the same models. For instance, emotional stability demonstrated medium-to-large associations with life satisfaction and affect but a weak association with income and no association with wealth. Likewise, extraversion demonstrated medium-to-large associations with positive affect and life satisfaction but small-to-medium associations with wealth and (lack of) negative affect and no association with income. Cognitive ability showed small-to-medium associations with income and wealth but no association with any aspect of subjective success. More agreeable adults were worse off in terms of objective success and life satisfaction, demonstrating small-to-medium inverse associations with those outcomes, but they did not differ from less agreeable adults in positive or negative affect. Likewise, openness to experience demonstrated small-to-medium inverse associations with every success outcome except positive affect, in which more open adults were slightly higher. Notably, in each of the five models predicting objective and subjective success outcomes, individual differences other than conscientiousness explained more variance than did conscientiousness. Thus, the benefits of conscientiousness may be remarkable more for their ubiquity than for their magnitude.
conscientiousness; personality; Big Five; income; wealth; subjective well-being