Carver, C. S.  (2003).  Pleasure as a sign you can attend to something else:  Placing positive feelings within a general model of affect.  Cognition and Emotion, 17, 241-261

Positive feelings are considered within the framework of a general model of origins and functions of affect.  This model treats affect as reflecting the error signal of a feedback loop managing rate of incentive-seeking (and threat-avoidant) behavior. In this view, positive feelings represent a sign that things are going better than necessary and are presumed to induce coasting. A tendency to coast is seen as facilitating the shift of attention and effort to other behavioral domains, where they may be needed more or where unforeseen opportunities have arisen. Such a function for positive feelings would permit the person both to maintain satisfactory standing with regard to multiple goals and to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities, thus providing adaptive value. Comparisons are made to other recently developed ideas concerning the functions of positive feelings.

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University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology