Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
I'm pleased to introduce you this week to Brett Major,
a doctoral student who's working in the science of positive psychology here at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
And this week you've been learning about micro moments of connection, or
positivity resonance as I call it.
And Brett's research focuses in on these micro moments of connection as he
tries to understand and unravel how they work and what they do for us.
So, Brett, could you tell us about what first drew you to the science of
positive psychology and you know, make this your life's work?
>> Yeah I actually got interested in positive psychology when I
was an undergrad and I was taking a class in psychology.
The professor of that class had some research on positive emotions and
happiness and you know, what makes people mentally well.
And how do, how they flourish and
I just was really struck by how exciting that was to have a chance to learn on.
About how you, we can make our lives better and make take you know,
our lives, even if we're not particularly unwell or sick in any way.
But there's always room for improvement and
improving ourselves, and I just got really excited.
I, I remember thinking I can't believe that you can do research on what
how someone can experience joy and try to start to figure these things out.
And I think that's, that's really exciting thing to think about because you know,
we all love feeling joy and these positive emotions and they're great.
And I just was really excited at looking at
how we can kind of maximize these positive emotions in our lives so.
So the rewards of working in this area of science seem self evident.
What have you found to be some of the challenges?
>> Yeah I think, I think one of the biggest challenges in doing
research on positive emotions, and I guess this is in any sort of research is,
how, how long it takes to really find these answers that.
You know, you read a study and find out oh,
well you know, positive emotions, you know, lead to X, Y and Z outcome, but.
I'm learning very quickly, or slowly maybe, that, it takes years
sometimes to get the, to do the research and, get to the answers of these things.
So it's a slow moving process but, I think it's just when you finally get the answer
that you have been looking for, or maybe a answer that you haven't been looking for.
It's really rewarding knowing that this is something that can be applicable to,
you know, people in their daily lives and something that people can use, and
so, I try to keep my eye on that.
And on those days that when it's, things are really, taking a long time to get
through something, but, but yeah it's, it's over all it's a rewarding experience.
But it certainly has it's moments where you know, it's not always fun and
>> All right.
So you've shared with me that you're,
you think your grandfather really embodied the concepts of positivity resonance.
>> Yeah so my grandfather.
My whole life has always been someone who will go walk up to someone he
doesn't know and just strike up a conversation and it, it was always short.
He wasn't trying to take up too much of anyone's time but he would go,
make a connection, smile.
He'd usually try to make a joke of some sort.
Some of these jokes were better than others, but, he was always, you know,
his intention was to, you know, just get to know someone briefly.
And he would take time everyday to drive around town,
and he had all of his little stops where he would go and.
He'd just pop in and, you know,
say hi or pick up some popcorn from the local car dealership.
There was food strategically placed at a lot of these areas that he liked.
But, I just remember thinking that, that's something that I learned from him is
that this can be a really rewarding thing to, you know, you get an opportunity to
meet people in your community and share a brief moment of this positive connection.
And I think he, he really, utilizes that throughout his whole life to, really.
You know, use those opportunities to, to connect with others in the community and
I think it had a lot of great impact on him too, you know.
He, he was always a happy guy and, I just was, you know,
thinking about him recently and realized oh my gosh,
I'm researching these brief micromoments of positivity and
my grandfather is the perfect example of this.
>> So tell us what your research is saying or
is poised to say about what the importance of these kinds of moments are.
>> Yeah. So we are, have a couple studies in
the process right now and we are, asking people to kind of take some time and
reflect on their positive social interactions.
And we are hoping to find what we're hypothesizing is that people,
their physical health is going to improve as they, continue to reflect upon these
positive social interactions and there's some research that already shows that.
But we don't know why, the,
this daily thinking about your positive social interactions.
Why is that good for your health?
So we have some theories on why we think that might happen and
one of them is that we think perhaps people are you know,
interacting with greater variety of people.
Maybe they're seeking out new friendships and
these new friendships are providing support for them when they need it.
Or maybe it's changing the way people think about their existing relationships.
So if you spend some time reflecting on your positive relationships,
then you can kind of find new meaning in the relationships you already have and
you can experience those a little more fully and.
Kind of, you know, maximize the things you already have.
So we're kind of trying to see which, you know,
what exactly it is about just thinking about your positive social interactions.
Why that might be good for your health in, in the long term.
>> Tell us what's next for
you, what else do you hope to tackle within the science of positive psychology.
>> So I, I've real, I've always been interested in
this idea of having a close positive connection with someone.
And I really like the idea of exploring this at a bigger more group level.
You know, what happens when you are with a group of
people singing together in unison.
You know it shares this kind of element of synchronicity and positive emotions.
And caring for someone or people dancing together in a group and
how this kind of can change the way groups see each other.
And see people outside of the group.
I can just think of lots of instances in my life where I've been with a group of
we're all kind of doing something together in unison, like singing or dancing.
And it's just this really heightened positive emotion that sometimes you
leave a situation like that, like maybe you're at a concert or
a religious service or you're running in a marathon together with people.
But that you leave those situations and you can almost feel a little different,
like you see the world a little bit differently.
And, I think it's I like to, I think that's a really good example of
this positivity resonance that we're we're talking about.
And I'm interested in how, you know, that may or may not be
different than when you experience it one on one with another person.
And how that might shape the way a group of people you know, think and, and act.
>> Fascinating stuff Brett.
Thanks, thanks for being here.
>> Yeah, yeah. >> So
I wanted to just say a quick word about the homework assignment.
I hope that this conversation with Brett has raised your interest and
And the experiential homework assignment for
this week that I invite you to dig into is to reflect on connection.
Very much in the spirit of the work that Brett's doing,
reflect on connection every evening for about a week and see how that changes you.