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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2003 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

The Value of Positive Emotions

The emerging science of positive psychology is coming to understand why it's good to feel good

Barbara Fredrickson

Positive emotions—joy, interest and contentment—are a puzzle to scientists. From an evolutionary point of view they don’t seem to have the same survival value as negative emotions such as fear or anger. The negative emotions elicit specific actions to run or attack, which must surely have helped our ancestors survive the dangers of life on the savannah. But what's the survival value of feeling joy or contentment? Psychologist Fredrickson argues that positive emotions allowed our ancestors to broaden their minds and build resources—intellectual, physical and social—that served them in good stead during hard times.


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