Broaden and build with positive emotions

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Positive emotions do more than make us feel good – they in fact help to increase our intellectual, social and physical resources!

The Broaden and Build Theory (Fredrikson, 2001) states that positive emotions such as joy, interest, contentment, pride and love increase our repertoire of thoughts and behaviours.  For example, the emotion of interest increases the urge to explore and take in new information, and the emotion of joy increases our urge to play and be creative.  The emotion of love increases our urge to savour and share experiences with our loved ones.

Negative emotions on the other hand, narrow our range of potential strategies for action – for example, the negative emotion of fear may lead us to simply flee or escape danger, which serves for the purpose of survival. However, when imminent danger is not present, negative emotions may narrow our range of cognitive resources when we need them the most.  For example, you’re about to give an important presentation at work and are feeling terrified – the emotion of fear may lead us to focus narrowly on the task at hand, where are positive emotions may in fact help us to deliver a potentially more creative or socially inclusive presentation.

What are the implications of the Broaden and Build Theory for you?  By experiencing more positive emotions, you may find that you perform better at tasks, think more creatively and flexibly and build stronger social connections!!  Can you think of some ways you can increase your experience of positive emotions?  What makes you happy/excited/interested?  How can you harness these experiences to help you excel?


Fredrickson, B.  (2001).  The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology.  American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226

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