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August 25, 2021
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Menlo Park, CA 94025
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Toxic Positivity

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

What happens when our need to feel good goes bad?

"Toxic positivity" is a relatively new term that has received widespread media attention. The term confuses people because of our general assumption that we should be positive. 

Toxic positivity occurs when people use or demand positive emotion or optimism in an oppressive way that diminishes or disregards legitimate and important concerns (even our own). 

We must understand this process as we suffer from a convergence of serious issues in America, including overt and structural racism, political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic, joblessness, mental illness, and climate change. These problems directly impact many among us, and even those who are not directly impacted can feel anxiety, dread, fear, guilt, anger or defensiveness at the prospect of another's pain--uncomfortable emotions that can drive us to push away the pain. 

But emotions evolved for a reason: to alert us to problems so that they could be fixed. 

To address these important social and personal problems, we must face them head on and take action, even when it feels uncomfortable. 

In this presentation Stephanie D. Preston, Ph.D. will clarify what is and is not toxic positivity, and how to respond more adaptively in the future--to the benefit of us all.

About Stephanie D. Preston 
Stephanie D. Preston is a professor in the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Area, in the Department of Psychology, at the University of Michigan. She holds an MA and Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied food-storing decisions in animals. This was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. 

As a faculty member at U-M, Dr. Preston’s interdisciplinary research looks across species and levels of analysis and employs tools from behavior coding to functional neuroimaging in order to understand how we evolved as a species to use emotion to inform behavior and decisions, particularly in important, applied contexts where we “save” one another, material goods and the earth itself.

This free event received partial funding support from the Friends of the Menlo Park Library.