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Converging findings suggest that depressed individuals exhibit disturbances in positive emotion. No study, however, has ascertained which specific positive emotions are implicated in depression. We report two studies that compare how depressive symptoms relate to distinct positive emotions at both trait and state levels of assessment. In Study 1 (N=185), we examined associations between depressive symptoms and three trait positive emotions (pride, happy, amusement). Study 2 compared experiential and autonomic reactivity to pride, happy, and amusement film stimuli between depressive (n=24; DS) and non-depressive (n=31; NDS) symptom groups. Results indicate that symptoms of depression were most strongly associated with decreased trait pride and decreased positive emotion experience to pride-eliciting films. Discussion focuses on the implications these findings have for understanding emotion deficits in depression as well as for the general study of positive emotion.
Although positive emotion research has begun to flourish, the extremes of positive emotion remain understudied. The present research used a multimethod approach to examine positive emotional disturbance by comparing participants at high and low risk for episodes of mania, which involves elevations in positive emotionality. Ninety participants were recruited into a high or low mania risk group according to responses on the Hypomanic Personality Scale. Participants’ subjective, expressive, and physiological emotional responses were gathered while they watched two positive, two negative, and one neutral film clip. Results suggested that participants at high risk for mania reported elevated positive emotion and irritability and also exhibited elevated cardiac vagal tone across positive, negative, and neutral films. Discussion focuses on the implications these findings have for the diagnosis and prevention of bipolar disorder, as well as for the general study of positive emotion.