Shiota, M. N., Papies, E. K., Preston, S. D., & Sauter, D. A. (2021). Positive affect and behavior change. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 39, 222–228.
Affect and emotion have potent motivational properties that can be leveraged to promote desirable behavior change. Although interventions often employ fear appeals in an effort to motivate change, both theory and a growing body of empirical evidence suggest that positive affect and emotions can promote change by serving as proximal rewards for desired behaviors. This article reviews examples of such efforts in the domains of healthy diet and exercise, prosocial behavior, and pro-environmental behavior, documenting the strong potential offered by behavioral interventions using this approach. The extent to which positive affect experience prospectively drives behavior change (as distinct from rewarding the desired behavior) is less clear. However, a variety of possible indirect pathways involving incidental effects of positive affect and specific positive emotions deserve rigorous future study.