The Impact of Positivity on Health

Barbara L. Fredrickson

Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD

Kenan Distinguished Professor and Director, Social Psychology Doctoral Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s most recent research offers an innovative approach to understanding the multiple ways by which positive emotions promote physical health. Most known for her “broaden-and-build theory” of positive emotions, which identifies positive emotions as key drivers of individual and collective resource building, Dr. Fredrickson builds on this earlier work to develop what she has called the “upward spiral theory” of lifestyle change. This new integrative model positions positive emotions as creating non-conscious and increasing motives for wellness behavior, rooted in enduring biological changes. The result is seemingly effortless maintenance of positive health behaviors. In this presentation, Dr. Fredrickson will describe the origins of and evidence for this new perspective on how positive emotions promote physical health. Implications for how best to promote positive lifestyle changes are discussed.

Presenter Bio

Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D. has been advancing the science of positive emotions for 25 years. She is currently Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she directs the PEP Lab ( She received her B.A. in psychology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, with a minor in organizational behavior. She is a leading scholar studying positive emotions and human well-being, and her research on positive emotions and lifestyle change is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NCI, NCCAM, NIMH, NINR). Professor Fredrickson has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and her general audience books, Positivity (2009, Crown, and more recently, Love 2.0 (2013, Penguin, have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Her scholarly contributions have been recognized with numerous honors, including the inaugural Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology from the American Psychological Association, the Career Trajectory Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the inaugural Christopher Peterson Gold Medal from the International Positive Psychology Association. Her work has influenced scholars and practitioners worldwide, within education, business, healthcare, the military, and beyond. She is President-Elect of the International Positive Psychology Association and is regularly invited to give keynotes nationally and internationally.