IPPA is pleased to have supported the Society for Affective Science (SAS) Positive Emotions Pre-Conference for the second year in a row as part of our mission to advance the science of positive psychology. It was held at the University of California, Los Angeles on April 26, 2018.

Download the Positive Emotions Pre-Conference program


by Jennifer Stellar, Pre-conference Chair

The 5th annual Positive Emotions Pre-conference was a huge success! The pre-conference continues to grow. We had 70 attendees, 12 talks, and 14 poster presenters. The pre-conference showcased cutting-edge research from established researchers in the field, but also from emerging scholars who study positive emotions.



We had 12 speakers, with a mix of longer talks (20 minutes) and shorter flash talks (10 minutes). These talks presented the newest research from these laboratories and represented a diversity of methodological and statistical approaches to studying positive emotions. Below is a summary of our talks.


Looking Past Anxiety and Fear: Positive Emotion in Blood Donation

Lisa Williams

Positive emotions during blood donation independently predicted returning to donate blood at a later time when both positive and negative emotions were measured. Results suggest that positive emotions are important in their own right in encouraging people to return to donate blood. Research is now looking at developing positive emotion profiles during the blood donation process.


How does reappraisal promote well-being?

Brett Ford (pictured on right)

People experience positive emotions during stress in both laboratory and daily stress contexts. Individual differences in reappraisal predicted the experience positive, but not negative emotions during stress. These individual differences in reappraisal predicted longer term well being through positive emotions in moments of stress.


Do People Use Positive Emotions as Tools

Aaron Weidman 

Positive emotions are motivated by social goals and negative emotions are motivated by performance goals. People try to feel positive emotions more than negative emotions and report being more successful about trying to feel positive than negative emotions.


A new perspective on the social functions of emotions: Gratitude and the witnessing effect

Sara Algoe (pictured on right)

Witnessing gratitude as a third party observer increases helping behavior. In addition, watching someone else be grateful increased rates of self-disclosure in third party observers.


Caring is costly: People avoid the cognitive effort of compassion

Daryl Cameron

Cognitive asks can help identify is empathy and compassion are perceived as cognitively costly. Results suggest that both empathy and compassion are cognitively costly and that people will avoid feeling them if they can. Compassion was seen as more effortful than empathy.


Cortical responses to laughter, and the role of individual differences

Sophie Scott (pictured on right)

Kids cannot detect the difference between spontaneous and controlled laughter. The brain does respond differently to these two types of laughter, with controlled laughter activating areas related to theory of mind.


People are better at maintaining positive than negative emotional states

Christian Waugh (pictured on right)

Positive emotions are better maintained over time than negative emotions using laboratory paradigms in which people experience positive and negative affect and then take part in other activities, and then come back to their emotion states from before.


Mapping the varieties of humor signaled by different laughs

Alan Cowen

There are many different types of humor, which are signaled by different facial expression, different vocalizations, different emoji expressions, and are elicited by different types of video clips. These results were obtained using big data, thousands of data points were gathered from Facebook from around the world.


Affect Contagion: Physiologic synchrony among close others

Wendy Berry Mendes (pictured on right)

Physiological contagion between mothers and babies occurs when a mother is stressed separately from her baby and then the baby is returned. These effects were mediated through touch and were stronger between mothers and babies than fathers and babies.


Mean Positive Affect Moderates the Association between Positive Affect Variability and Immune Response to the Influenza Vaccination

Brooke Jenkins (pictured on right)

This work found an interaction between the mean levels and the variability of positive emotions when predicting health outcomes like response to receiving the influenza vaccination. This was not the case for negative emotions.


Smiles of Evaluation: Differentiated Physiological Responses to Reward, Affiliation, and Dominance Expressions as a Function of High-Frequency Heart Rate Variability

Jared Martin

Smiles have different functions: reward smiles encourage desired behavior, affiliation smiles signal non-threating attitudes, and dominance smiles negotiate social standing. During a stressor receiving a dominant smile from someone else increased cortisol, especially for people with greater heart rate variability, who are presumably more sensitive to social cues.


Pride’s Place in the Positive Emotion Pantheon

Jess Tracy (KEYNOTE SPEAKER pictured on right)

There are two different types of pride: authentic pride and authentic pride. These types of pride help negotiate hierarchies based on status and rank respectively. At a broader level it raises the question, what is a positive emotions since pride can be either good or bad depending on your goals and whether it is authentic or hubristic.



We had a very popular poster session and are continuing to incorporate more graduate student participation in the conference. Secret judges visited our posters and nominated graduate students with the most impressive research and best presentations. As a result three graduate students were awarded posters and were given free registration for the pre-conference.