Positivity offset

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In psychology, the positivity offset is a phenomenon where people tend to interpret neutral situations as mildly positive, and rate their lives as good, most of the time. The positivity offset stands in notable asymmetry to the negativity bias.

In perception[edit]

Social neuroscience researcher John Cacioppo has assembled evidence that people typically see their surroundings as positive, whenever a clear threat is not present. Because of the positivity offset, people are motivated to explore and engage with their surroundings, instead of being balanced inactive between approach and avoidance.[1]

In life satisfaction[edit]

Across most cultures, nations, and groups of people, the average and median ratings of life satisfaction are not neutral, as one might expect, but mildly positive.

Groups of people who do not show a positivity offset include people with depression, people in severe poverty, and people who live in perpetually threatening situations. However, many groups of people that outsiders would not expect[according to whom?] to show the positivity offset do, such as people with paraplegia and spinal injury, very elderly people, and people with many chronic illnesses. In some cases these individuals never become as satisfied or happy with their lives as before their illness or injury, but over time (generally approximately two years), they still stabilize at a level substantially above neutral. That is, they judge themselves overall as satisfied or happy and not dissatisfied or unhappy.[2]

Many of the major psychological publications on life satisfaction ratings have come from Ed Diener and colleagues.[3][4] This empirical work gathered life-satisfaction judgments from many modern and traditional cultures worldwide.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cacioppo, John T.; Gardner, Wendi L.; Berntson, Gary G. (1999). "The affect system has parallel and integrative processing components: Form follows function" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76 (5): 839–855. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.5.839. Archived from the original on 2012-05-16.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ Lucas, Richard E. (2007). "Adaptation and the Set-Point Model of Subjective Well-Being: Does Happiness Change After Major Life Events?". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 16 (2): 75–79. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00479.x.
  3. ^ Diener, Ed; Diener, Carol (1996). "Most People Are Happy". Psychological Science. 7 (3): 181–185. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1996.tb00354.x.
  4. ^ Diener, E.; Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). "Beyond Money: Toward an Economy of Well-Being" (PDF). Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 5 (1): 1–31. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00501001.x. PMID 26158992.