Positivity/negativity ratio

Positivity/negativity ratio

Positivity and negativity are powerful feedback processes in human behavior. Positive feedback encourages us to continue doing what we have done so far. Negative feedback, on the contrary, generally acts as a warning signal that tells us to moderate or stop what we are doing and to redress the course of our actions. Positive feedback can be linked to approach behavior and negative feedback to avoidance behavior. Through the course of evolution, these two processes, approach and avoidance, have helped us survive in complex environments. A powerful indicator of what is possible for a system is the positivity/negativity ratio of feedback.

The positivity/negativity ratio (P/N) has been found to be a critical parameter to ascertain what kinds of dynamics are possible for a team (Losada & Heaphy, 2004). Marcial Losada found that high performance teams have a P/N ratio of 5.6; medium performance teams have a P/N of 1.9 and low performance teams have a P/N of .36. These ratios determine the level of connectivity that a team can reach (Losada & Heaphy, 2004). Connectivity is the control parameter in the meta learning model developed and empirically validated by Losada (1999), who found that high performance teams have dynamics that correspond to a complexor (complex order) which is mathematically equivalent to a chaotic attractor; medium performance teams have dynamics that correspond to a limit cycle; and low performance teams have dynamics that correspond to a point attractor. John Gottman found that marriages who flourish have a P/N ratio of 5.1 and those who end up in divorce have a P/N of .77 (Gottman, 1994). Barbara Fredrickson found that individuals who flourish have a P/N above the Losada line and those who languish have a P/N below the Losada line. Waugh and Fredrickson found that the Losada line separates people who are able to reach a complex understanding of others from those who do not (Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006). The Losada line establishes the minimum level at which a complexor is reached and is equal to a P/N of 2.9013 (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).


*Losada, M. & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. "American Behavioral Scientist", 47 (6), pp. 740-765. [http://losada.socialpsychology.org]

*Losada, M. (1999). The complex dynamics of high performance teams. "Mathematical and Computer Modelling", 30 (9-10) pp. 179-192. [http://losada.socialpsychology.org]

*Gottman, J. M. (1994). "What Predicts Divorce: The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes". New York: Lawrence Earlbaum.

*Fredrickson, B. L. & Losada, M. (2005). [http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/human_flourishing.pdf Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing.] "American Psychologist," 60 (7) 678-686. [http://losada.socialpsychology.org]

*Waugh, C. E. & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). [http://www.unc.edu/peplab/publications/Waugh%20-%20PE-self-other%20overlap_in%20new%20relationships_JOPP.pdf Nice to know you: Positive emotions, self-other overlap, and complex understanding in the formation of a new relationship.] "The Journal of Positive Psychology", 1 (2), 93-106.

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