Chapter 13: Positive Emotions

Sensory Pleasure vs. Positive Emotions

Now that we are more comfortable with the definitions of positive emotions, let’s discuss the difference between sensory pleasure and a positive emotion. Then, we will delve into the emotion components of positive emotions.

Sensory pleasure and positive emotions share similarities, but most researchers consider these different experiences. Remember, Ekman (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011) does view sensory pleasure as a basic, positive emotion. Sensory pleasure occurs when our bodies reduce or eliminate a negative state such as pain or cold, resulting in a pleasant state. In other words, sensory pleasure is elicited when a motivation or internal trouble is satisfied. For instance, sexual pleasure, satisfying hunger and thirst, or removing painful states. So how do sensory pleasure and positive emotions differ? Well, both constructs include positive subjective feelings, physiological changes, and approach behaviors (Fredrickson & Cohn, 2008). Only positive emotions include cognitive appraisals, while sensory pleasure does not.

Sensory pleasure and a positive emotion can occur at the same time. For instance, if we satisfy a hunger drive, that will result in sensory pleasure and could also elicit the emotion contentment. If we remove an unpleasant stimulus, that could result in sensory pleasure and the emotion relief. So, remember – sensory pleasure and positive emotions can co-occur, but they are different constructs!

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