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WVU Psychology to host leading social psychology scholar April 20 and 21


The West Virginia University Department of Psychology will host Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on April 20 and 21 for lectures on the power of positivity.


“Typically, in psychology, a lot of the focus has been on negative emotions, for good reasons, but Dr. Frederickson put positive emotions on the map, outlining specific hypotheses about how they’re functional and why. Her broaden and build theory of positive emotions transformed the field,” said Amy Gentzler, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. “Her work shows that focusing on positive emotions can cause an ‘upward spiral’ that can actually improve our thinking and behavior, which has implications for our health and social relationships.”


Fredrickson, earned her undergraduate degree from Carleton College and her doctorate from Stanford University. She is Director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at UNC, Chapel Hill. Fredrickson is a leading scholar within social psychology, affective science and positive psychology, and has received more than 16 consecutive years of research funding from the National Institutes of Health.


Her research and teaching have been recognized with numerous honors, including, in 2000, the American Psychological Association's inaugural Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology; in 2008, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology's Career Trajectory Award; and in 2013, the inaugural Christopher Peterson Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the International Positive Psychology Association.


“She’s a pioneer. She’s not afraid to go into new areas. For example, she’s not a geneticist, but she works with people who are so that way she can look at positive emotions and their effects at multiple levels,” said Gentzler.


Fredrickson will present a department colloquium, “The Biology of Purpose and Positivity,” April 20 at 4 p.m. in G15 Life Sciences Building, and a community lecture “Why Prioritize Positivity?” April 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Gluck Theater in the WVU Mountainlair.


Her work is cited widely and she is regularly invited to give keynotes nationally and internationally. Her 2009 book, Positivity, describes the relevance of her 20-year research program on positive emotions for a general readership and her 2013 book, Love 2.0, offers a fresh and practical perspective on this most vital human emotion.


Fredrickson’s visit is being supported by the Helen Coast Hayes Lecture Series. The Helen Coast Hayes Lecture Series was established in 1998 by an endowment that provides permanent support for annual lectures on peace studies. The series explores a variety of topics in the humanities that affect peace, including the literature, history, sociology, psychology and philosophy of peace. The series focuses on the humanities, but not necessarily exclusively, in order to explore, among other appropriate topics, the literature of peace, the history of peace, the sociology of peace, and the philosophy of peace.

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