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Positive emotions have been shown to benefit from optimistic perceptions, even if these perceptions are illusory (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The current research investigated the effects of increases and decreases in illusory control on positive and negative emotions. In two studies we experimentally induced changes in illusory perceptions of control (increase vs. decrease of illusory control) and assessed the extent to which these changes, in turn, influenced participants’ emotions. Extending prior research, the results of both studies revealed that whereas illusions of personal control over environmental outcomes mitigated the experience of negative emotions, they did not foster positive emotions. Perceiving a loss of illusory control, however, significantly reduced the experience of positive emotions, but had no effect on negative emotions. Implications for emotion theory and intervention programs are discussed.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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