Neuroscience and Social Decision Making Series
The ability to self-generate positive emotions in the face of adversity is adaptive for healthy psychological functioning. One way to elicit positive emotions is to reminisce about past positive life events. Autobiographical memories are rich representations of our past that have the extraordinary ability to bring back emotions tied to the original experience. In this talk, I will present behavioral and neuroimaging evidence suggesting that reminiscing about the positive past is intrinsically valuable to an individual. Specifically, positive reminiscence can recruit reward-related neural circuits that influence mood and decision making. I will then discuss how enhancing positive emotions via recollection can buffer the detrimental effects of acute stress exposure, and how the social value inherent in a memory can bolster these effects. Overall, these findings highlight the protective and restorative function of self-generated positive emotions in coping with negative affective states, and its implications for psychological wellbeing.