By: Efemena Orife Birkbeck College, University of London
Previous research on broaden and build theory as posited by Barbara Fredrickson (1998) has solely focused on how positive emotions broadens an individual’s awareness and thought-action repertoire. The theory focuses on the short and long term effects on physical, social, intellectual and psychological wellbeing. Further research (Fredrikson, 2004) has suggested that positive emotions are effective in broadening an individual’s thought process which eventually improves and builds an individual’s behaviour, skills and resources and in turn enhances their survival.
This aim of this study is to investigate if positive emotions when induced, affect an individual’s cognitive performance and if different specific positive emotions when induced in between tasks were in one way more effective than another in broadening individual’s cognitive performance in comparison to a control group. Statistical tests did not support either hypothesis.
The “Broaden and Build theory” as formulated by Barbara Fredrickson(2001) proposes that positive emotions multiply into other positive emotions from which they were originally acquired which leads to an upward spiral of positive affects, as though in a cycle.
There has been a constant debate as to a fixed definition of positive emotions (Moors, 2009); but it is addressed as a brief subjective feeling which involves subsets of other moods. However, theories that focuses on emotion, state positive emotions as a subjective feeling varying with many different components such as feelings, reasoning and behaviours. In explaining her theory, Barbara Fredrickson (Fredrikson,1998) states that positive emotions broadens an individual’s attention and awareness which ideally expands their actions, skills and thought repertoire for immediate and future purposes. These could account for short term or long term effects. Short term effects include motivation, cognition, attention as well as psychological affects, which could transform into long term effects in an individual’s range of skills, social wellbeing, physical and intellectual resources, thereby maximising an individual’s wellbeing as a whole. Several studies and experiments have been designed and have shown that positive emotions do indeed improve performance (Isen et al, 1999, 2000) and enhance resilience.
According to previous literature from psychologists and researchers, positive emotions have received diminutive attention in research, contrasting negative emotions. Researchers and psychologists have suggested the purpose for emphasis on negative emotions is because they are detrimental to an individual’s physical wellbeing and psychological development as well as society (Frydenberg, 1997). Likewise, negative emotions e.g. Depression, psychopathy, violence, amongst many others are in many ways more potent and attention grabbing (Baumeister et al, 2001), compared to positive emotions.
Conversely positive emotions as described in evolutionary terms, have no immediate value for survival (Fredrikson, 2003a) but would likely benefit from more attention and research. Additionally, research has shown that when negative emotions are present, they tend to narrow resources and skills, disallowing immediate response to the situation (Frijda, Kuipers, & Schure, 1989, Fredrikson, 2001) while, positive emotions seem to serve as a survival mechanism when negative emotions are present, providing a distraction from negative