Thinking and Feeling: The Influence of Positive Emotion on Human Cognition

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The interaction of thinking and feeling has remained an enduring question of psychology and philosophy. After centuries of philosophical debate, only recently have psychologists, aided by technological advances, conducted rigorous research on the relationship between affect and cognition. This paper integrates contemporary approaches from cognitive psychology and neuropsychology to understand the influence of positive affect on cognition. The broaden-and–build theory (Fredrickson, 2001) suggests that positive emotion enhances human cognitive flexibility, expands one’s repertoire of thoughts, and facilitates development of cognitive resources. The dopaminergic theory of positive affect (Ashby, Isen, & Turkin, 1999) presents dopamine as an important mediator of the relationship between positive emotional states and human cognition and behavior. Three studies are reviewed which empirically tested and found support for the aforementioned theories. Directions for future inquiry are suggested and practical applications are offered, including suggestions for counselors and psychotherapists seeking to expand their understanding of the role which positive emotions may play in the therapeutic change process.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalThe Hilltop Review
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Cognition


  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology

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