In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.
Two studies tested the hypothesis that certain positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. In Study 1, 60 subjects (Ss) viewed an initial fear-eliciting film, and were randomly assigned to view a secondary film that elicited: (a) contentment; (b) amusement; (c) neutrality; or (d) sadness. Compared to Ss who viewed the neutral and sad secondary films, those who viewed the positive films exhibited more rapid returns to pre-film levels of cardiovascular activation. In Study 2, 72 Ss viewed a film known to elicit sadness. Fifty Ss spontaneously smiled at least once while viewing this film. Compared to Ss who did not smile, those who smiled exhibited more rapid returns to pre-film levels of cardiovascular activation. We discuss these findings in terms of emotion theory and possible health-promoting functions of positive emotions.
The broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001) hypothesises that positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Two experiments with 104 college students tested these hypotheses. In each, participants viewed a film that elicited (a) amusement, (b) contentment, (c) neutrality, (d) anger, or (e) anxiety. Scope of attention was assessed using a global-local visual processing task (Experiment 1) and thought-action repertoires were assessed using a Twenty Statements Test (Experiment 2). Compared to a neutral state, positive emotions broadened the scope of attention in Experiment 1 and thought-action repertoires in Experiment 2. In Experiment 2, negative emotions, relative to a neutral state, narrowed thought-action repertoires. Implications for promoting emotional well-being and physical health are discussed.
This article opens by noting that positive emotions do not fit existing models of emotions. Consequently, a new model is advanced to describe the form and function of a subset of positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment, and love. This new model posits that these positive emotions serve to broaden an individual’s momentary thought–action repertoire, which in turn has the effect of building that individual’s physical, intellectual, and social resources. Empirical evidence to support this broaden-and-build model of positive emotions is reviewed, and implications for emotion regulation and health promotion 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
Extending B. L. Fredrickson’s (1998) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions and M. Losada’s (1999) nonlinear dynamics model of team performance, the authors predict that a ratio of positive to negative affect at or above 2.9 will characterize individuals in flourishing mental health. Participants (N = 188) completed an initial survey to identify flourishing mental health and then provided daily reports of experienced positive and negative emotions over 28 days. Results showed that the mean ratio of positive to negative affect was above 2.9 for individuals classified as flourishing and below that threshold for those not flourishing. Together with other evidence, these findings suggest that a set of general mathematical principles may describe the relations between positive affect and human flourishing.
nonlinear systems; emotions; broaden-and-build theory; positive psychology; subjective well-being
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.
This paper examines the emergence of behavioral synchrony among strangers in the context of self-disclosure, and their path in predicting interaction quality. Specifically, we hypothesize that behavioral synchrony mediates the direct effect of self-disclosure on the development of embodied rapport. Same-sex stranger pairs (n=94) were randomly assigned to a videorecorded self-disclosure or control condition, and afterward each member rated their social interaction. Following the procedure used by Bernieri, Reznick, & Rosenthal (1988), two trained judges independently watched each video record and rated each pair interaction on behavioral synchrony. Bootstrapping analyses provide support for the hypothesized mediating effect of behavioral synchrony, which emerged as independent of the effects of self-other overlap and positive affect. The authors discuss implications of behavioral synchrony for relationship formation processes and the inevitable entwinement of behavior and judgments in light of embodied cognition.
Synchrony; Self-disclosure; Rapport; Embodiment; Relationship formation
The broaden hypothesis, part of Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory, proposes that positive emotions lead to broadened cognitive states. Here, we present evidence that cognitive broadening can be produced by frequent facial expressions of positive emotion. Additionally, we present a novel method of using facial electromyography (EMG) to discriminate between Duchenne (genuine) and non-Duchenne (non-genuine) smiles. Across experiments, Duchenne smiles occurred more frequently during positive emotion inductions than neutral or negative inductions. Across experiments, Duchenne smiles correlated with self-reports of specific positive emotions. In Experiment 1, high frequencies of Duchenne smiles predicted increased attentional breadth on a global–local visual processing task. In Experiment 2, high frequencies of Duchenne smiles predicted increased attentional flexibility on a covert attentional orienting task. These data underscore the value of using multiple methods to measure emotional experience in studies of emotion and cognition.
Broaden-and-build theory; Positive emotion; Duchenne smile; Attentional orienting; Global local; Holistic perception
Social threat is a key component of mental “stress” and a potent generator of negative emotions and physiological responses in the body. How the human brain processes social context and drives peripheral physiology, however, is relatively poorly understood. Human neuroimaging and animal studies implicate the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), though this heterogeneous region is likely to contain multiple sub-regions with diverse relationships with physiological reactivity and regulation. We used fMRI combined with a novel multi-level path analysis approach to identify brain mediators of the effects of a public speech preparation task (social evaluative threat, SET) on heart rate (HR). This model provides tests of functional pathways linking experimentally manipulated threat, regional fMRI activity, and physiological output, both across time (within person) and across individuals (between persons). It thus integrates time series connectivity and individual difference analyses in the same path model. The results provide evidence for two dissociable, inversely coupled sub-regions of MPFC that independently mediated HR responses. SET caused activity increases in a more dorsal pregenual cingulate region, whose activity was coupled with HR increases. Conversely, SET caused activity decreases in a right ventromedial/medial orbital region, which were coupled with HR increases. Individual differences in coupling strength in each pathway independently predicted individual differences in HR reactivity. These results underscore both the importance and heterogeneity of MPFC in generating physiological responses to threat.
Flourishing—a state of optimal mental health—has been linked to a host of benefits for the individual and society, including fewer workdays lost and the lowest incidence of chronic physical conditions. The aim of this paper was to investigate whether and how routine activities promote flourishing. The authors proposed that flourishers thrive because they capitalize on the processes featured in the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, specifically by experiencing greater positive emotional reactivity to pleasant events and building more resources over time. To test these hypotheses, the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) was administered to a prescreened community sample of adults (n = 208) and they were recontacted 2–3 months later. Results showed that relative to those who did not flourish or were depressed, people who flourish generally responded with bigger “boosts” in positive emotions in response to everyday, pleasant events (helping, interacting, playing, learning, spiritual activity) and this greater positive emotional reactivity, over time, predicted higher levels of two facets of the cognitive resource of mindfulness. In turn, these higher levels of mindfulness were positively associated with higher levels of flourishing at the end of study, controlling for initial levels of flourishing. These results suggest that the promotion of well-being may be fueled by small, yet consequential differences in individuals’ emotional experience of pleasant everyday events. Additionally, these results underscore the utility of the broaden-and-build theory in understanding the processes by which flourishing is promoted, and provide support for a positive potentiation perspective.
flourishing; mental health; broaden-and-build; positive emotions; mindfulness
Carstensen’s selectivity theory, which explains age-related change in social behavior in terms of emotion conservation and increasing discrimination among social partners, was investigated in 2 studies. In Study 1, 80 people aged 14 to 95 classified descriptions of people according to their similarities as social partners. Three-way multidimensional scaling revealed that people primarily organized social partners in terms of affect anticipated in the interaction and that this dimension was most important to older people. Study 2 showed how anticipated social endings influence partner selection: 380 people aged 11 to 92 chose familiar or novel partners under unspecified and ending conditions. Overall, older people chose familiar partners most frequently; yet when social endings were salient, younger people patterned the preferences of the elderly. These results suggest that social partner selectivity functions to conserve emotion resources in the face of limited future opportunities.
Emotions provide a ubiquitous and consequential backdrop to daily life, influencing everything from physiology to interpersonal relationships in the blink of an eye. Instances of emotional experience accumulate and compound to impact overall mental and physical health. Under optimal conditions, emotions are adaptive for the successful navigation of daily life. However, situational features of military life likely amplify everyday emotions and their impact, creating the need for soldiers to have a well-oiled emotional resilience system in place from the start, to be maintained throughout their careers. Basic research in affective science has identified the active ingredients that would be required in order for such a system of skills and abilities to have maximum impact on overall emotional fitness. Results of this emotional resilience training may provide compounding benefits for the individual as well as have spreading impact for the benefit of the military unit and other social connections. The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiative highlights important new frontiers in affective science and presents a challenge to our field that requires taking a second look at the theory-testing process.
positive emotions; resilience; social functions of emotions; chronic stress; emotional fitness
In 2 studies the postulate that the perception of time left in life influences the ways that people conceptualize social relationships was explored. It was hypothesized that when time is limited, emotional aspects of relationships are highly salient. In Study 1, a card-sort paradigm involving similarity judgments demonstrated, for a sample of persons 18 to 88 years old, that the prominence of affect in the mental representations of prospective social partners is positively associated with age. In Study 2, the same experimental approach was applied to a sample of young gay men similar to one another in age, but notably different in their health status (that is, HIV negative; HIV positive, asymptomatic; and HIV positive, symptomatic). It was found that, with age held constant, increasing closeness to the end of life is also associated with an increasing prominence of affect in the mental representations of social partners. The results suggest that the perception of limited time, rather than chronological age, is the critical variable influencing mental representations of social partners.
socioemotional selectivity theory; emotion; HIV status; aging
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
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.
Positive emotions are hypothesized to undo the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions. Study 1 tests this undoing effect. Participants (n = 170) experiencing anxiety-induced cardiovascular reactivity viewed a film that elicited (a) contentment, (b) amusement, (c) neutrality, or (d) sadness. Contentment-eliciting and amusing films produced faster cardiovascular recovery than neutral or sad films did. Participants in Study 2 (n = 185) viewed these same films following a neutral state. Results disconfirm the alternative explanation that the undoing effect reflects a simple replacement process. Findings are contextualized by Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (B. L. Fredrickson, 1998).
Happiness – a composite of life satisfaction, coping resources, and positive emotions – predicts desirable life outcomes in many domains. The broaden-and-build theory suggests that this is because positive emotions help people build lasting resources. To test this hypothesis we measured emotions daily for one month in a sample of students (N=86) and assessed life satisfaction and trait resilience at the beginning and end of the month. Positive emotions predicted increases in both resilience and life satisfaction. Negative emotions had weak or null effects, and did not interfere with the benefits of positive emotions. Positive emotions also mediated the relation between baseline and final resilience, but life satisfaction did not. This suggests that it is in-the-moment positive emotions, and not more general positive evaluations of one’s life, that form the link between happiness and desirable life outcomes. Change in resilience mediated the relation between positive emotions and increased life satisfaction, suggesting that happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better, but because they develop resources for living well.
happiness; life satisfaction; ego-resilience; broaden and build
Vagal tone (VT), an index of autonomic flexibility, is linked to social and psychological well-being. We posit that the association between VT and well-being reflects an “upward spiral” in which autonomic flexibility, represented by VT, facilitates capitalizing on social and emotional opportunities and the resulting opportunistic gains, in turn, lead to higher VT. Community-dwelling adults were asked to monitor and report their positive emotions and the degree to which they felt socially connected each day for 9 weeks. VT was measured at the beginning and end of the 9-week period. Adults who possessed higher initial levels of VT increased in connectedness and positive emotions more rapidly than others. Furthermore, increases in connectedness and positive emotions predicted increases in VT, independent of initial VT level. This evidence is consistent with an “upward spiral” relationship of reciprocal causality, in which VT and psychosocial well-being reciprocally and prospectively predict one another.
Rsa; Vagal tone; Emotions; Social support; Self-regulation
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
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
We examined whether interpersonal closeness increases salivary progesterone. One hundred and sixty female college students (80 dyads) were randomly assigned to participate in either a closeness task with a partner versus a neutral task with a partner. Those exposed to the closeness induction had higher levels of progesterone relative to those exposed to the neutral task. Across conditions, progesterone increase one week later predicted the willingness to sacrifice for the partner. These results are discussed in terms of the links between social contact, stress, and health.
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
Following highly negative events, people are deemed resilient if they maintain psychological stability and experience fewer mental health problems. The current research investigated how trait resilience (Block & Kremen, 1996, ER89) influences recovery from anticipated threats. Participants viewed cues (‘aversive’, ‘threat’, ‘safety’) that signified the likelihood of an upcoming picture (100% aversive, 50/50 aversive/neutral, or 100% neutral; respectively), and provided continuous affective ratings during the cue, picture, and after picture offset (recovery period). Participants high in trait resilience (HighR) exhibited more complete affective recovery (compared to LowR) after viewing a neutral picture that could have been aversive. Although other personality traits previously associated with resilience (i.e., optimism, extraversion, neuroticism) predicted affective responses during various portions of the task, none mediated the influence of trait resilience on affective recovery.
resilience; emotion regulation; recovery; relief; anticipation
We examined the relationship between the character strength of kindness and subjective happiness (Study 1), and the effects of a counting kindnesses intervention on subjective happiness (Study 2). In Study 1, participants were 175 Japanese undergraduate students and in Study 2, participants were 119 Japanese women (71 in the intervention group and 48 in the control group). Results showed that: (a) Happy people scored higher on their motivation to perform, and their recognition and enactment of kind behaviors. (b) Happy people have more happy memories in daily life in terms of both quantity and quality. (c) Subjective happiness was increased simply by counting one's own acts of kindness for one week. (d) Happy people became more kind and grateful through the counting kindnesses intervention. Discussion centers on the importance of kindness in producing subjective happiness.
gratitude; intervention; kindness; positive psychology; subjective happiness