On the Paucity of Positive Emotions

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Abstract

The positive emotions have proved to be a source of embarrassment to psychologists. Discussions of fear, anxiety, depression, anger, grief, etc., are plentiful in the psychological literature. But when it comes to emotions such as joy, mirth, love, mystical experiences, and the like, psychologists are often at a loss for words. Thus, in a content analysis of psychological textbooks, Carlson (1967) found that approximately twice as much space was devoted to negative as to positive emotions. Although Carlson’s analysis is now somewhat out of date, I doubt that a survey of current textbooks would reveal a major change in emphasis (except perhaps for a recent upsurge of interest in issues related to sexual behavior, including romantic love).