Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The art and science of positive emotions

Today I would like to introduce you to the work of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Fredrickson is a leading scholar in the field of positive emotions and human flourishing. I first read some of her work while reviewing literature for my dissertation. I was particularly taken with her broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 1998). Broaden-and-build suggests that positive emotions are not simply the result of having positive experiences, but that positive emotions position us to be more likely to have positive experiences. For example, anger and fear are emotions that put us in survival mode and thus narrow our thinking. Positive emotions, on the other hand, emotions like joy, gratitude, and curiosity, expand our thinking, we are more open to new information and thus are better able to think creatively and solve problems. Working from a positive emotional state gives us more options.

Let me be clear, everything I am saying here is Dr. Fredrickson's work, not my own thinking. Further, positive psychology may sound like the latest self-help trend, however, Fredrickson's work evolves from research and offers wonderful complexity, though the reading is accessible. Her work is not a how-to, but instead offers research-backed theory and much to consider.

See Dr. Fredrickson on YouTube:


Visit her site for more information, publications, etc.:


Until next time,


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