The experience of happiness, and of positive emotions, is a basic building block of human nature. 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?
My research is centered on elucidating precisely this issue. Specifically, I focus on examining maladaptive aspects of positive emotion and how they might relate to mental health disturbance. As such it centers on questions of whether positive emotion might -- in particular degrees, contexts, and variations or types -- be a predictor of negative psychological-health outcomes. This work is focused towards providing an integrated model delineating the nature of positive emotion disturbance using the theoretical lens and methodological tools of affective science. Work in my lab focuses on both clinical populations characterized by disturbed positive emotion (e.g., bipolar disorder) as well as healthy populations to understand the normative function of emotion. This work bridges clinical science, social-personality, and neuroscience traditions; involves using experimental, experience-sampling, and prospectives designs; and adopts a multi-method approach assessing emotional functioning at experiential (e.g., self-report, narrative), behavioral (e.g., FACS), and biological (e.g., psychophysiology; and more recently neural and genetic) levels of analysis across.
The long-term aim of this research agenda is to facilitate identification of the upper boundary conditions of positive emotion, areas of impairment as well as resilience, and potentially hasten the development of future interventions focused on savoring and building positive emotions at the right time, and in the appropriate degree.
Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir. M. (2011) A dark side of happiness? How, when and why happiness is not always good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222-233.
Gruber, J. (2011). When feeling good can be bad: Positive emotion persistence (PEP) in bipolar disorder. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 217-221.
Gruber, J., Johnson, S. L., Oveis, C, & Keltner, D. (2008). Risk for mania and positive emotional responding: Too much of a good thing? Emotion, 8(1), 23-33.
Gruber, J., Culver, J. L., Johnson, S. L., Nam, J., Keller, K. L., & Ketter, T.K. (2009). Do positive emotions predict symptomatic change in bipolar disorder? Bipolar Disorders, 11, 330-336.
Oveis, C., Cohen, A. B., Gruber, J., Shiota, M. N., & Haidt, J. & Keltner, D. (2009). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is associated with tonic positive emotionality. Emotion, 9, 265-270.