Semester

Summer

Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Type

PhD

College

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Committtee Chair

Amy L. Gentzler

Committee Co-Chair

Patricia A. Haught

Committee Member

Aaron Metzger

Committee Member

Julie H. Patrick

Committee Member

Natalie J. Shook

Abstract

By broadening cognitions and actions, positive affect increases our ability to engage in novel behaviors and build resources, which can lead to better social relationships, better health, more success, and increased resilience (Fredrickson, 2001). Thus, finding ways to increase and maintain positive affect and its broadening effects is essential. One way to up-regulate positive affect is by savoring, or actively trying to prolong or intensify a positive feeling. Although savoring is associated with a number of positive outcomes, the nature of the relationship between savoring, positive affect, and the resulting cognitive effects is not well explored. Furthermore, while some preliminary work has highlighted individual differences in the ability to savor, immediate changes in affect are typically not assessed, and savoring ability is often measured through self-report. The current study randomly assigned participants to savor by cognitively reminiscing on a previously experienced positive event in order to investigate how savoring may promote positive affect, broadened cognitions, and the willingness to engage in a variety of behaviors. Furthermore, based on theory and previous empirical work, individual differences in savoring ability were examined, including self-esteem, anxious attachment, age, perceptions of free time, and future time perspective. Additional analyses examined self-reported trait savoring and trait mindfulness, along with distraction, effort, and impatience during the task as factors that may predict increased savoring effectiveness. Results suggest that after recalling a positive event, savoring was linked to the maintenance of both general and high-arousal positive affect, increases in low-arousal positive affect, and the maintenance of low levels of negative affect and poignancy. Contrary to hypotheses, results suggest that greater increases in positive affect after savoring was linked to less broadened cognitions. Similar to previous research, increased positive affect was linked to a willingness to engage in a greater number of behaviors. However, this did not differ between the savoring group or the control group, indicating that savoring does not promote a greater willingness to engage in more behaviors beyond its typical increases in positive affect. Controlling for baseline affect, some individual differences emerged in savoring ability. Specifically, those with higher self-esteem had a greater self-reported capacity to savor. However, self-esteem was linked to increases in positive affect after the task for the control group only. Those who reported higher levels of anxious attachment had lower levels of self-reported savoring ability, but attachment was not a significant predictor of affect after the savoring task. Age was unrelated to both self-reported savoring and affect after the savoring task. Free time was unrelated to self-reported savoring or affect after the savoring task, but was it related to less post-task negative affect for the control group. Overall future time perspective and a focus on opportunities were unrelated to both self-reported and task savoring, and a focus on limitations was related to less negative affect after the task for both groups, but was unrelated to self-reported savoring. Furthermore, a focus on limitations was also related to more effort and also more distraction during the savoring task. This study provides new, unique information on who can savor and how this savoring ability impacts positive emotions and their related benefits.

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