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Carleton Alumnus to Present Convocation on the Power of Positive Emotions

April 3, 2012
By Jacob Cohn '13

Barbara Fredrickson, Carleton College Class of 1986 and a renowned psychologist and expert on human emotions, will deliver Carleton College’s convocation address on Friday, April 6. Fredrickson’s presentation, “What Good Is It to Feel Good?,” will focus on the power of positive emotions, which she argues have the power to change our lives if properly harnessed. Convocation is held from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel, and is free and open to the public.

While most scientists who study emotions focus on negative states such as depression, Fredrickson, who heads the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has spent her career investigating positive emotions. She is a proponent of the “broaden-and-build” theory of positive emotions, which proposes that positive emotions can broaden human awareness and build skills, leading to concrete improvements in our lives. While acknowledging that positive emotions are fleeting, Fredrickson argues that people can improve their lives by maintaining the right ratio of positive and negative emotions. Her book, Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2009), is meant to inspire readers to enter an “upward spiral” of positive emotion. For more information, visit online at

Fredrickson has received widespread acclaim within her profession, receiving ten consecutive years of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and several awards including the 2000 Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology. She has focused on positive emotions in her work but has also researched other topics including the role gender plays in self-objectification. She is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.