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Research

RESEARCH

We know that positive emotions motivate us to pursue important goals, savor experiences, counteract the cardiovascular effects of stress, and maintain vital social bonds. However, a relatively untouched question remains — Can positive emotions also be a source of dysfunction? Can feeling good be a predictor of negative mental health outcomes? Much of the work in the PEP lab centers on people at risk for, and with a clinical history of, mania (i.e., bipolar disorder) as a means to better characterize and understand the mental health significance of extreme perturbations in positive emotion. The PEP lab also conducts basic research on the normative function of positive emotion and its behavioral and psychophysiological (RSA) markers. An overarching theme in this line of work involves utilizing a multi-method approach by assessing emotional functioning at experiential (self-report, narrative), behavioral (FACS), and biological (fMRI, EEG, Neuroendocrine) levels of analysis. More details are below.

Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Lab - People

Research Facilities

The PEP laboratory houses newly renovated space located in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This space was designed specifically for clinical and affective neuroscience research paradigms, and includes a main research laboratory in the Muenzinger building which houses the state-of-the-art psychophysiological equipment and audiovisual capabilities. Additional laboratory space with two additional rooms designated for clinical interviewing, testing and research is located at the Center for Innovation and Creativity (CINC) which also houses the MRI Center. This includes 3 single-participant psychophysiological testing rooms, 2 dyadic clinical interviewing and psychophysiological room, 8 dedicated workstations for graduate students and post-docs, central control room, participant waiting area, and additional lab-designated testing and clinical interviewing rooms at the CINC fMRI Center. In sum, Dr. Gruber’s laboratory includes full facilities to support psychophysiology, behavioral testing, and neuroimaging and neuroendocrine data analysis.

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Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Lab - People

Positive Emotion Dysregulation Across Disorders

Are problematic positive emotion responses evident across other populations? Positive emotions in certain degrees, contexts, and types may serve as a marker of psychological dysfunction rather than health. One route we're taking is to adopt transdiagnostic approach to understand the contribution of disrupted positive emotion to mental health outcomes across a variety of populations (Gruber, 2011; Gruber, in press). Examples include:

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Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Lab - People

Themes in Positive Emotion Disturbance (Tale of “S’s”)

The longstanding assumption has been that positive emotions and associated feelings are entirely adaptive. As a result, less scientific attention has been devoted to understanding the ways in which positive emotions might also be a source of dysfunction for our psychological health. However, the empirical tides have recently begun to change and with it a new wave of research centrally driven by the PEP has pointed to ways in which positive emotionality is also related to a range of poor health outcomes and maladaptive clinical syndromes. Work in the PEP lab is centrally focused on unpacking the nature of positive emotion disturbance by highlighting key themes deterring the ways positive emotion may go awry (e.g. Gruber & Purcell, 2014). These insights are aimed at providing an integrative model for understanding positive emotion as well as how to harness and cultivate appropriate positive feelings. Sample conceptual themes of focus include:

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Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Lab - People

Light and Dark Sides of Positive Emotion

As empirical research on positive emotion and happiness gains increasing momentum, two seemingly conflicting streams of findings have emerged. On the one hand, research supports robust social, cognitive, and physical health benefits of positive emotion. On the other hand, emerging findings also suggest maladaptive risk-taking, cognitive, and social and mental impairment associated with positive emotion (Gruber, Mauss, & Tamir, 2011). How can these seemingly conflicting 'light' and 'dark' sides, respectively, of positive emotion be understood together? Work in PEP lab is currently focused developing and empirically testing an integrative account of positive emotion, along with a 2014 book by June Gruber & Judith Moskowitz by Oxford University Press “Seeing Both Sides: The Light Sides and Dark Sides of Positive Emotion.”

 

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