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THE ROLE OF STATE AND TRAIT POSITIVITY ON PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE AND RECOVERY FROM NEGATIVE EMOTION
Restricted (Penn State Only)
Doctor of Philosophy
Date of Defense:
June 14, 2017
Jose Angel Soto, Dissertation Advisor
Jose Angel Soto, Committee Chair
Koraly Elisa Perez-Edgar, Committee Member
Reginald Adams Jr., Committee Member
Jennifer Elise Graham-Engeland, Outside Member
There has been an increased interest in positive emotions within the last two decades and a surge in research supporting the notion that positive emotions have some beneficial impacts on physiology and health. In the current study, we investigate the role of state and trait positive emotions in reactivity and recovery from negative stimuli designed to elicit disgust. We expected both state and trait positive emotions to serve either a protective or buffering role, and to be associated with reduced physiological reactivity and better physiological recovery. We also expected facial expressions associated with positive emotion during presentation of the disgust stimuli to be associated with better physiological recovery, higher subjective ratings of positive emotions following the stimuli and lower subjective ratings of negative emotions following the stimuli. Results of the present study did not consistently demonstrate that trait positive emotion or the experience of state positive emotion prior to the stimulus provided a benefit to participants, in contrast to the Broaden-and-Build Hypothesis of positive emotions that informed the predictions the current study. Life satisfaction, trait positivity, and positive emotion ratings were related to some aspects of physiological responding, but not always in the directions hypothesized. The overall pattern of responding suggested that positivity may play a role in physiological responses that are, in part, tied to the parasympathetic nervous system, but may be less relevant or associated with increased sympathetic responding. The current study suggests that there is a need for further refinement of theories of positive emotions, and that consideration of culture may further illuminate in what situations and for whom these emotions serve a benefit.
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