Positivity Resonance

Professor Barbara Fredrickson has also focused on the science of love, or positivity resonance and upward spirals of lifestyle change.

As an example of the research, recent findings from the PEP Lab (Kok et al., in press: 14-15) give evidence:

“… not only that positive emotions build physical health, as indexed objectively as cardiac vagal tone, but also how: We found that people’s perceptions of their positive social connections with others accounted for the causal link between positive emotions and improved vagal tone… the data suggest that positive emotions, positive social connections, and physical health forge an upward spiral dynamic.”

This leads directly to the hypothesis that love, defined as a form of social connection characterised by positivity resonance, a single state distributed and resonating between the brains and bodies of two (or more) individuals, broadens and builds above and beyond other individually experienced positive emotions (Fredrickson 2013). Positivity resonance therefore fits within broaden-and-build, but one may speculate as some kind of “super-powered” version thereof.

Love is a greatly misunderstood emotion, partly due to the multiplicity of cultural, social and religious ideas on it, and the variety of our own personal experiences. Interestingly for me, positivity resonance as a theory explains the core principle of Aikido, as well as its seemingly “magical” results, in a scientific way. Aikido exercises related to Aiki (Burke, 2012: 89), one of the Japanese words for “love” more precisely translated as “the process by which opposite forces unite to create something new” illustrate positivity resonance physically, as not only energy creating but a radical transformation in the relationship. The difference between trying to make the other person move and (using Aiki) moving the connection as an imagined ball of energy between the two people has radically different effects, which I feel are accounted for by positivity resonance theory.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxxIh8NtGfw – A short talk by Barbara for the very busy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxoPLtRnxZs – A more in depth talk on Positivity resonance


Burke, D. (2012). Purpose & Practice. Isshinkai. http://www.lulu.com/shop/denis-burke/purpose-practice/paperback/product-20610255.html

Fredrickson 2013, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. http://www.amazon.com/Love-2-0-Supreme-Emotion-Everything/dp/1594630992

Fredickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1-53.

Kok, B. E., Coffey, K. A., Cohn, M. A., Catalino, L. I., Vacharkulksemsuk, T., Algoe, S. B., et al. (in press). How positive emotions build physical health: Perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychological Science.

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