Category Archives: Publications

New Publication

Łowicki, P., Zajenkowski, M., & Van Cappellen, P. (in press). It’s the heart that matters: The relationships among cognitive mentalizing ability, emotional empathy, and religiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 161, 109976.

Exciting new research on empathy and religion conducted by our visiting scholar, Paweł, in collaboration with Dr. Van Cappellen will soon be published on the Personality and Individual Differences journal!

Check out the work in advance here:

New Publication

Van Cappellen, P., Catalino, L. I., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2019). A new micro-intervention to increase the enjoyment and continued practice of meditation. Emotion. doi:10.1037/emo0000684
New work revealing the importance of experiencing positive emotions during spiritual practices in order to sustain engagement in the practice.
New health behaviors are difficult to maintain and meditation is no different. We tested two key pathways of the upward spiral theory of lifestyle change (Fredrickson, 2013), which identifies positive emotions as critical ingredients for the maintenance of new health behaviors. The present experiment combined a laboratory session that introduced novices to meditation with a 3-week follow-up period to assess the extent to which study participants maintained this new health behavior. In a 2 × 2 experimental design, midlife adults (N = 240) were randomized to (a) learn about judicious ways to prioritize positivity (labeled “prioritizing positivity plus”) or about a control topic that also featured the science of positive emotions and (b) follow a guided meditation based on either loving-kindness, which provided an opportunity to self-generate positive emotions, or mindfulness, which did not. All participants rated their emotions following the initial guided meditation and reported, week by week, whether they meditated during the ensuing 21 days. Analyses revealed that being exposed to the prioritizing positivity plus microintervention, relative to a control passage, amplified the effect of engaging in loving-kindness (vs. mindfulness) meditation on positive emotions. Additionally, the degree to which participants experienced positive emotions during first exposure to either meditation type predicted the frequency and duration at which they practiced meditation over the next 21 days. These findings show that the enjoyment of meditation can be experimentally amplified and that initial enjoyment predicts continued practice. Discussion spotlights the importance of differentiating effective and ineffective ways to pursue happiness.

New publication

Van Cappellen, P. (in press). The emotion of joy: A commentary on Johnson. Journal of Positive Psychology.


In this contribution, I push for a deeper understanding of the emotion of joy as compared to happiness and to other discrete positive emotions, by specifying its appraisals and functions. I suggest that joy connects us to our core identity, values, and priorities. It is the emotion that makes life worth living in the moment. I further discuss the distinction between an objective versus subjective account of instances of joy, a distinction I find important to bear in mind when dealing with morally problematic cases of joy. Finally, I discuss points of connection between the psychologies of joy and religion and suggest multiple lines of future research.

Mindfulness Publication

Do Contemplative Moments Matter? Effects of Informal Meditation on Emotions and Perceived Social Integration.

Fredrickson, B. L., Arizmendi, C., Van Cappellen, P., Firestine, A. M., Brantley, M. M., Kim, S. L., . . . Salzberg, S. (2019). Do Contemplative Moments Matter? Effects of Informal Meditation on Emotions and Perceived Social Integration. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-019-01154-2

In this study we showed that informal meditation practice (both mindfulness and loving-kindness) increases daily positive emotions and perceptions of social integration over time (independently of the effects of a formal meditation practice). Think about it as you go about your day! “Informal mindfulness meditation (MM) may entail a simple shift of awareness toward one’s breath, whereas informal loving–kindness meditation (LKM) may entail a passing, yet heartfelt wish for another person’s well-being.”

See full paper here: