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Psychological Science
2019 Project Proposal

Positive Emotions, Stress Regulation, and Resilience

Michele Tugade (Psychological Science)

Psychological resilience is the ability to bounce back from stress or adversity. Positive emotional experience is one avenue for achieving psychological resilience (Tugade, 2011; Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004, 2007). While research demonstrates that positive emotions are useful in helping resilient people recover from adversity, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that link positive emotions to effective self-regulation. One untested mechanism is grit.

Grit is defined as passion and perseverance towards long-term goals (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). Such perseverance helps one overcome obstacles that lie on the path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. This may only part of the story, however. Effective resilience also involves “flexible grit,” or the ability to effectively disengage from unattainable goals when the goals no longer are suitable (Wrosch et al., 2003). The ability to disengage from unattainable goals is critical for self-regulation. A key factor with flexible grit is emotion (Lench & Levin, 2008).

The present research examines whether positive emotions can replenish personal resources that are depleted by stress. Positive emotions should buffer against distress, allowing one to persist in effort, motivation, and engagement and take healthy risks, during short-term. In contrast, negative emotions should result in greater frustration and faster disengagement in the face of potential failure. We expect that positive emotions would promote flexible grit in long-term tasks. These mechanisms might explain the process by which resilient people achieve effective emotion regulation in the face of threat or vulnerability.

Prerequisites:
Research Methods course in Psychological Science, data collection experience and data analysis proficiency

How should students express interest in this project?
Interested applicant should email Dr. Michele Tugade (mitugade@vassar.edu).