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Are Positive Interventions Always Beneficial?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 June 2020

Pablo Briñol*
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Richard E. Petty
The Ohio State University (USA)
Beatriz Gandarillas
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Lorena Moreno
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pablo Briñol. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). 28049 Madrid (Spain). E-mail:


Can people improve their lives by smiling more, trying to have a better posture, and by thinking about good memories? Can individuals become more successful by deliberatively engaging in positive actions and thoughts? Do people feel better by following recommendations from naïve psychology? In the present article we discuss these questions, noting that although some popular interventions thought to be universally beneficial (e.g., inductions of happiness, self-affirmation, empowerment, self-distancing) can sometimes yield positive outcomes, at other times the outcomes can also be negative. Taking an empirical approach based on experimental evidence, we postulate that understanding the underlying processes discovered in the science of persuasion is the key for specifying why, when, and for whom these practical initiatives are more likely to work or to backfire.

Research Article
© Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2020

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Conflicts of Interest: None.

This work was supported by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, Gobierno de España (ES) [PSI2017-83303-C2-1-P]. Grant to the first author.


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