The psychic costs of intense positive affect


Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., Pavot, W. G., & Allman, A. (1991). The psychic costs of intense positive affect. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 61(3), 492-503.


Recent research indicates that happiness, or affective well-being, is related primarily to the frequency, not to the intensity, of positive affect. The question arises as to why intense positive affect (PI) is not a larger contributor to subjective well-being. Whether processes that yield PI also produce intense negative affect was examined. 610 undergraduates were Ss in 5 studies. Studies 1 and 2 suggested that cognitive mechanisms that amplify or dampen affect can carry over from positive to negative events. Study 3 demonstrated that, because of judgment mechanisms, an extremely positive event can make other events less positive. Study 4 revealed that naturally occurring intensely positive experiences are often preceded by negative ones. Study 5 suggested that the more persons valence success at a task, the happier they will be if they succeed, but unhappier if they fail. The 5 studies reveal that intense positive experiences may sometimes have costs that counterbalance their desirable nature.

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