There were no sex or ethnic differences in average ICCs for positive emotions

In addition to the experience-sampling procedure, participants completed self-report measures of coping. We administered the brief COPE (Carver, 1997), which is a short form (28 items) of the original COPE inventory (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989). The COPE is a multidimensional inventory used to assess the different ways in which people generally respond to stress. The COPE is parsed into 14 subscales that describe different coping strategies: acceptance, active coping, behavioral disengagement, denial, emotional support, humor, instrumental support, planning, positive reframing, religion, self-blame, self-distraction, substance use, and venting.

Participants also completed the Rational-Experiential Inventory (REI; Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj, & Heier, 1996), which is a self-report measure of individual differences in intuitive-experiential and analytical-rational thinking styles. The rational system is said to operate primarily at the conscious level and is intentional and analytic. In contrast, the experiential system is assumed to be automatic and preconscious. The REI has been used to map the relation between automatic/controlled processing and coping. Previous research indicates that rational (controlled) processing may be more critical for effective coping; more experiential (automatic) processing can at times be adaptive, but, generally, it is ill-suited for coping, which involves solving problems that require logical analysis and an understanding of abstract relations (Epstein et al., 1996).

Psychological health

The undoing hypothesis was tested in a series of three experiments (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998; Fredrickson, Mancuso, Branigan, & Tugade, 2000). Each investigation experimentally induced a high-arousal, negative emotion, which produces increases in sympathetic reactivity (e.g., increases in heart rate, vasoconstriction, and blood pressure). Immediately following negative emotional arousal, participants were randomly assigned to view an emotionally evocative film that induced joy, contentment, neutrality, or sadness. In three independent samples, participants in both high- and low-activation, positive-emotion conditions (joy, contentment) exhibited faster cardiovascular recovery from negative emotional arousal, compared to those in the neutral or sad film conditions. Thus, in line with the broaden-and-build theory, positive emotions appear to have a unique ability to physiologically down-regulate lingering negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998; Fredrickson, et al., 2000).

We examined the role of positive emotions in helping trait-resilient individuals rebound from negative emotional situations (cf., Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004). We argued that, if resilient individuals indeed have the psychological capacity to rebound despite adverse encounters or stress (e.g., J. H. Block & Block, 1980; Carver, 1998; Lazarus, 1993), then this ability to “bounce back” should be reflected physiologically as well. We predicted that high-resilient individuals would evidence faster cardiovascular recovery from a stressor, relative to low-resilient participants. Furthermore, we predicted that faster cardiovascular recovery from negative emotional arousal would be attributable, in part, to experiences of positive emotion.


The ways that individuals represent their emotional experiences may provide insight into the information that they derive from emotions to direct coping behavior. Towards this end, the aim of Study 2 was to investigate another trait characterized by positive emotional experience, namely positive emotional granularity. Positive emotional granularity reflects individual differences in the tendency to represent positive emotional experience precisely (rather than globally). By representing positive emotional experiences with precision, one may derive important information from discrete emotion concepts. Such information may be more beneficial to an individual than more general information provided by global moods. Given the health benefits associated with positive emotions and the informational value provided by discrete positive emotion concepts, higher positive emotional granularity should be associated with healthier outcomes.

To test this hypothesis, participants (N = 130, 53% female) took part in an experience-sampling study. Participants were issued palmtop computers (HP 360 LX) to report on their emotional experience at randomly chosen periods, 10 per day for a total of 28 days (potentially resulting in a maximum of 280 measurement moments per participant). The palmtop computers run custom software (Experience Sampling Program, ESP; Barrett & Feldman Barrett, 2000). ESP presents 29 affect terms for each sampling occasion. Participants indicate how they feel at that moment according to a 7-point scale (0 = not at all, 3 = a moderate amount, 6 = a great deal). Participants were told to respond as quickly as possible without compromising their accuracy. Participants were beeped for 10 times daily between the hours of 8 am to 11 pm, and they were asked to respond to a series of questions intended to assess their emotional experience. Specifically, participants were first asked, “Are you experiencing an emotion?” After responding “yes” or “no,” participants were asked to rate the extent to which they felt different affective terms. Emotional granularity indices were derived from the experience-sampling ratings. 2