In an Ohio State University study, participants described to the researchers a real-life incident that made them angry.
When researchers didn’t show support or understanding for the anger participants were describing, the story-tellers showed declines in positive emotions. But when the researchers validated what the participants were saying, their positive emotions were protected and stayed the same.
Similarly, study participants reported dips in their overall mood as they recalled the anger-provoking event, and only those who were validated reported a recovery of mood back to their starting point.
There was no significant difference found in participants’ negative emotions—a result that speaks to the value of focusing on protecting positivity, said Jennifer Cheavens, senior author of the study and a professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
“We have underestimated the power of positive emotions. We spend so much time thinking about how to remedy negative emotions, but we don’t spend much time thinking about helping people harness and nurture positive emotions,” Cheavens said.
“It’s really important to help people with their depression, anxiety, and fear, but it’s also important to help people tap into curiosity, love, flexibility and optimism. People can feel sad and overwhelmed, and also hopeful and curious, in the same general time frame.”
In three experiments, the researchers assessed the effects of validation and invalidation on what are known clinically as positive and negative affect. Positive affect refers to positive emotions and expression that Cheavens said allow us to be curious, connected and flexible in our thinking. Negative affect, on the other hand, refers to negative emotions and expression ranging from disgust to fear to sadness.
Source: Ohio State University