Dec 4, 2015
On today’s episode of Trend Following Radio Michael Covel
interviews Barbara Fredrickson. Barbara is a professor at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the Kenan
Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and the Principal
Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at
the University of North Carolina. She is a social psychologist that
conducts research in emotions and positive psychology. Her main
work is related to her Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive
Emotions which suggests that positive emotions lead to novel,
expansive or exploratory behavior, and that over time these actions
lead to meaningful long term resources such as knowledge and social
The podcast starts with Michael asking, “When did this fascination start with you?” Barbara explains that she has had a curiosity with emotional behavior all her life, but it was in college when she realized that almost all research was centered around negative emotions. She began being influenced by evolutionary science, neurosciences, and behavioral changes that occur with emotions. She sees her job as figuring out why positive emotions matter, and why they are important. All emotions have specific action tendencies whether negative or positive. She believes that positive emotions broaden our horizons and negative emotions have values that are much more narrow and specific. Positive emotions bring awareness. They help us become better versions of ourselves. Barbara goes on to explain that it’s not the intensity of positive emotions that are important, it’s the frequency. They are like waves, they arrive and then dissipate. Positive emotions don’t typically have as powerful of moments as negative emotions and that is why Barbara believes they have eluded the interest of scientists for so long.
Michael then brings up Barbara’s work with “the undoing effect.” Barbara expands on this hypothesis by saying, “It first started when other scientists looked at the physiological signature of emotions.” The undoing effect counters the current notion that negative emotions have a signature and positive ones do not. The study showed that positive emotions actually act as reset buttons to your negative emotions. Lastly, Barbara helps listeners look at love through the lens of an emotions scientist. She explains that when we share positive emotions with multiple people it is more effective than when we experience that same emotion individually. She also points out that love is made up of micro moments of positive experiences rather than long lasting ongoing experiences.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio: