Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden-and-Build theory is one of the cornerstones of positive psychology. Her theory aims to explain the contributions of positive emotions to human well-being. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger, and disgust, lead to narrow responses focused on avoiding or confronting threat. Positive emotions, on the other hand, lead to cognitive flexibility and a broad range of behavioral tendencies. Emotions tend to be fleeting, but the behaviors that follow from broadened behavioral tendencies lead to durable resources, such as social ties and expanded skills. The list below shows some examples of behavioral tendencies associated with positive emotions.
- Joy ? Play
- Interest ? Explore
- Contentment ? Savor & integrate
- Pride ? Dream big
- Gratitude ? Creative giving
- Elevation ? Become better
- Love ? All of the above
The broaden-and-build theory is probably in the mind of each PPND author as he or she writes about positive emotions.
According to Ed Diener, subjective well-being is affected by three quantities: amount of positive affect (another word for emotion), amount of negative affect, and overall satisfaction with life. He argues that positive affect and negative affect vary independently, rather than as two ends of the same scale. It is possible to have positive affect and negative both be high or both be low at the same time. Life satisfaction is a longer term evaluation of one’s general life situation. The PANAS self-assessment is based on this way of characterizing subjective well-being, and is available for free on registration at the Authentic Happiness site. However, during a recent presentation to the International Positive Psychology Association, Dr. Diener pointed out that the PANAS scale tends to measure aroused states rather than calm ones. Thus the positive affect score does not reflect contentment as well as it does joy or excited interest.
|Diener, E. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2008). Happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of psychological wealth. New York: Blackwell-Wiley. To be released in September 2008.
Ed Diener has been a scholar of subjective well-being since 1981.
|Eunkook Mark Suh
|Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55, 34-43. Abstract and purchase from APA here.
Diener, E., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (no date). Recent findings on subjective well-being.
|Fredrickson, B. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319. Available here.
Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226. Available here.
Fredrickson, B. (2003). The value of positive emotions: The emerging science of positive psychology is coming to understand why it’s good to feel good. American Scientist, 91, 330-335. Available here.
Barbara Fredrickson has a book about positivity:
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown Books.