Research on how positive emotions can transform people into more creative, resilient and healthy individuals results in psychology's largest prize

May 15, 2000

Templeton Positive Psychology Prize awarded to four top researchers to promote a science of human strengths

A researcher at the University of Michigan has received the largest monetary prize ever awarded in the field of psychology for creating a new theory explaining the beneficial effects of positive emotions. Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, was the unanimous choice for the John Marks Templeton Positive Psychology Prize first place award of $100,000.

The American Psychological Association (APA), with underwriting support from the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), created the awards program, which is intended to encourage first-rate mid-career scientists to devote their best efforts to positive psychology topics, such as goal-focused living, self-control, future-mindedness, optimism, persistence, work-ethic, thrift, courage and moral identity.

Dr. Fredrickson's new theory, called the broaden-and-build model, asserts that positive emotions (unlike negative emotions which narrow an individual's momentary thought-action repertoire) broaden people's modes of thinking and action. Overtime this broadening of the possible responses to life events creates an "upward spiral" which builds the individual's strength and character, solidifies social bonds and supports health and well-being. The theory illuminates how transient positive emotions can yield lasting effects, transforming people into more creative, resilient, socially integrated and healthy individuals. Her research shows that positive emotions reduce heightened cardiovascular activity following negative emotions and build people's psychological resilience.

Three other researchers were also presented with Templeton Positive Psychology Prizes during a ceremony in Washington, DC. Lisa Aspinwall, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, received the second place prize of $50,000 for her research that builds on earlier findings that optimists tend to be resilient, successful people and looks at the question of why optimists tend to do well. Aspinwall's findings show that optimists differ from others in the way they process information about themselves and, that contrary to popular belief, optimists do not ignore negative information but use it to change their strategy or improve their performance thus increasing their likelihood for success.

The third place prize of $30,000 went to Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley for his research on the role that the display of such emotions as embarrassment and shame play in the appeasement and reconciliation process which help individuals and groups form and maintain important social relationships. The fourth place prize of $20,000 went to David Lubinski, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University for his research on genius and ways to conceptualize and nurture intellectual talent over the life span.

This is the first year for the Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, which is open to researchers in all the social sciences, not just psychology. The First Place Award of $100,000 is divided as a prize of $30,000 to be used any way the recipient chooses and a grant of $70,000 to support research in the positive psychology field. The Second Place Award of $50,000 includes a prize of $15,000 and a grant of $35,000; the Third Place Award of $30,000 includes a prize of $10,000 and a grant of $20,000; and the Fourth Place Award of $20,000 includes a prize of $7,500 and a grant of $12,500.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Contact: David Partenheimer Public Affairs Office 202-336-5706

Note to Media: A press conference and Q & A session with the four award winners will be held in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, May 16, 2000, at 11:00 AM at the Club at Franklin Square, 1300 I Street, NW. The winners are also available for one-on-one interviews.

American Psychological Association

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