An expression of concern has been issued for the second of three papers on the idea that, if you have three positive emotions for every negative one, you will be more successful in life.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has spent the last decade building a brand around this ratio, initially described by a mathematical equation based on fluid dynamics by mathematician Marcial Losada. You can read our coverage of the debunking of that equation, presented in a 1999 paper that has been cited nearly 1,700 times, here.
Nick Brown, co-author with Alan Sokal on the paper that discredited the Losada equation, has written a blog post on the current state of affairs. He also got in touch with us regarding the expression of concern for a 2004 article in American Behavioral Scientist that he had also questioned, “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamic Model”:
The Editorial Board and Publisher of the American Behavioral Scientist hereby issue an Expression of Concern regarding the nonlinear dynamic model and sebsequent model-based predictions in the article entitled “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamic Model” published in the February 2004 issue of the American Behavioral Scientist.
The non-linear dynamic model employed was first introduced in Losada (1999), expanded upon here and in Fredrickson & Losada (2005).
This set of three papers was critically examined in a 2013 American Psychologist article (Brown, Sokal & Freidman, 2013). Fredrickson and Losada (2005) was subsequently corrected by Fredrickson (with Losada’s assent). Specifically, the non-linear dynamic modeling element of the 2005 article was withdrawn as invalid and, along with it, the model-based predictions about the particular positivity ratios of 2.9 and 11.6. Other elements of the 2005 paper were upheld as valid, including the empirical evidence that linked higher positivity ratios to flourishing mental health (Fredrickson, 2013).
As with Fredrickson & Losada (2005), Losada has chosen to not defend or comment on his non-linear dynamic model despite repeated requests over several months from the American Behavioral Scientist editorial board or the special issue editor of the issue in which Losada and Heaphy (2004) appeared.
As such, the non-linear model used in the Losada and Heaphy (2004) may be invalid and the resulting predictions may be unfounded.
Heaphy has been available for comment, but was not involved in the data collection, analyses, or interpretation of the analyses, which are of central concern here. She became involved after the paper had going through one round of peer reviews, invited by the Special Issue Editors to help Losada link the findings to relevant organizational research and to make the paper understandable to an organizational audience. Thus, her contribution to the paper is not related to the expression of concern.
You can take a short quiz on Fredrickson’s website, if you’re interested to see where you stand.