A Short Summary of Fredrickson’s Broaden-and-Build Theory
Fredrickson introduced the Broaden-and-Build Theory of positive emotions in 1998. The theory provides a convincing explanation of the “point” of positive emotions: to open our minds, broaden and expand our awareness, and facilitate the building and development of resources, including knowledge, skills, abilities, and relationships.
In the words of Fredrickson herself:
“…these positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savour and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships.” (2004, p. 1367).
The effects of these emotions are in sharp contrast to the effects of negative emotions, or those experienced in a dangerous situation (e.g., fear, terror, anxiety), which usually have the effect of narrowing our focus and limiting our myriad options to the one or two best suited for survival. In such situations, these automatic responses are vital for ensuring that we make it out alive; however, in situations that are not life-threatening, we don’t need such a narrow perspective or limiting of options.
This is where positive emotions are more advantageous—instead of limiting our scope, they expand it to allow for creative thought and action. Instead of narrowing our focus to one or two responses, they expand our awareness to take in the much wider array of responses we can choose from.
This broadening of our horizons allows us to play, to learn, and to acquire lasting knowledge and skills that we can carry with us throughout our lives. These resources are may be physical, emotional, psychological, social, and even mental, but no matter what kind of resources we acquire through this broadening, they are enduring.
These resources acquired and developed through experiencing positive emotions have been shown to result in many benefits throughout the several domains of life.
In the all-encompassing domain of physical and psychological health, positive emotions can have fantastic effects.
Please come back tomorrow for Part 6