Definitions - Positive Emotions

Can you list all positive emotions? (Hint: they include amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love, and others). Learn why positive emotions contribute to health, wealth and longevity. 

The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 1998; Fredrickson & Cohn, 2008) proposes that positive emotions are evolved adaptations that function to build lasting resources. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow attention, cognition, and physiology toward coping with an immediate threat or problem (Carver, 2003; Cosmides & Tooby, 2000), positive emotions produce novel and broad-ranging thoughts and actions that are usually not critical to one’s immediate safety, well-being, or survival. Over time, however, these novel experiences aggregate into consequential resources that can change people’s lives. For example, idle curiosity can become expert knowledge, or affection and shared amusement can become a lifelong supportive relation- ship. Positive emotions forecast valued outcomes such as health, wealth, and longevity because they help build the resources to get there.


Evidence confirms that positive emotions broaden thought– action repertoires: Induced positive emotions produce wider visual search patterns, novel and creative thoughts and actions, more inclusive social groups, and more flexible goals and mindsets (for reviews, see Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999, and Fredrickson & Cohn, 2008). A recent randomized controlled trial of loving- kindness meditation showed that individuals who learn to self- generate feelings of compassion and love also build resources (Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008). A variety of indirect (Fredrickson, 1998; Fredrickson & Cohn, 2008) and prospective correlational studies (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003; Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006) support this finding.


Positive emotions include amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, gratitude, hope, interest, joy, love, and pride.


This definition is a quote from the study called, Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience



Michael A. Cohn, University of California San Francisco

Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stephanie L. Brown, University of Michigan

Joseph A. Mikels, Cornell University

Anne M. Conway, University of Pittsburgh

Emotion © 2009 American Psychological Association

2009, Vol. 9, No. 3, 361–368 1528-3542/09 DOI: 10.1037/a0015952

I read your article, I know a

I read your article, I know a lot. Thank you.