Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 237-258

First online:

The Undoing Effect of Positive Emotions

  • Barbara L. FredricksonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Women's Studies Program, and Research Center for Group Dynamics, University of Michigan
  • , Roberta A. MancusoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Christine BraniganAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Michele M. TugadeAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan

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Positive emotions are hypothesized to undo the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions. Study 1 tests this undoing effect. Participants (n = 170) experiencing anxiety-induced cardiovascular reactivity viewed a film that elicited (a) contentment, (b) amusement, (c) neutrality, or (d) sadness. Contentment-eliciting and amusing films produced faster cardiovascular recovery than neutral or sad films did. Participants in Study 2 (n = 185) viewed these same films following a neutral state. Results disconfirm the alternative explanation that the undoing effect reflects a simple replacement process. Findings are contextualized by Fredrickson's broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (B. L. Fredrickson, 1998).