New York Times cites Barbara Fredrickson’s research on ‘tragic optimism’

April 22, 2020

By: Barbara Fredrickson

The New York Times opinion piece “On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for Meaning, Not
Happiness” cites research by Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliate Barbara

The piece explores how people can tap “tragic optimism” to cope with emotional fallout during
and after the coronavirus pandemic. It draws insight from Fredrickson’s research on young
adults’ well-being following 9/11.

“Some of them were less likely to become depressed than others. What set those resilient
students apart was their ability to find the good. Unlike the less resilient students, the
resilient reported experiencing more positive emotions, like love and gratitude,” the NYT writes
of Fredrickson’s findings. “But that didn’t mean they were Pollyannas. They did not deny the
tragedy of what happened. In fact, they reported the same levels of sadness and stress as less
resilient people.”

Finding meaning during times of adversity also can help people to grow and engage following
traumatic events, The New York Times writes.

Frederickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she directs the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology