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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1991 Sep;61(3):492-503.

The psychic costs of intense positive affect.

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University of Illinois, Department of Psychology, Champaign 61820.


Recent research indicates that happiness, or affective well-being, is related primarily to the frequency, not to the intensity, of positive affect (PA). 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. 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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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