Protective Effects of Positive Emotions
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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This dissertation investigates the protective effects of positive emotions in cognitive and physiological realms. Previous research indicates that positive emotions lead to broader thinking compared to negative emotions and have the ability to undo lingering physiological effects due to having experienced negative emotions. Drawing on this research, the dissertation aimed to determine if positive emotions also have protective capabilities against effects that negative emotions elicit such as narrowed thinking and heightened physiological arousal. Another purpose of the dissertation was to look at whether positive emotions experienced just before negative emotions speed physiological recovery back to baseline levels of physiological functioning. To examine whether positive emotional experiences protect against narrowed thinking due to experiencing negative emotions, I used a global-local visual processing task and measured the speed and accuracy of responding to either a global or local decision. To examine the physiological component, I employed physiological measurements of heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, skin conductance level, and skin conductance response. Contrary to expectations, positive emotions did not affect the speed or accuracy of responding to global or local decisions. Similarly, positive emotions experienced before negative emotions failed to protect against heightened physiological arousal and did not aid in physiological recovery. These findings failed to support the notion that positive emotions have protective effects, at least in regard to a short term manifestation of these effects.