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Positive and negative emotional attractors and intentional change

Anita Howard (Department of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 1 August 2006




The purpose of this paper is to explore the process by which individual change occurs.


This conceptual paper presents the intentional change theory (ICT) perspective on the role of positive and negative emotion in individual level intentional change. Existing emotion research is reviewed to provide a framework for discussion.


ICT offers a new understanding on the role of positive and negative emotion in the process of intentional change. The positive emotional attractor (PEA) triggers constructive cognitive and physiological responses that enhance an individual's motivation, effort, optimism, flexibility, creative thinking, resilience and other adaptive behaviors. The negative emotional attractor (NEA) triggers another process by calling attention to current social and environmental stressors that may compromise an individual's effectiveness. While both emotional attractors play an important role in intentional change, it is critically important to leverage the beneficial effects of PEA arousal.

Practical implications

Through thorough understanding of the PEA and NEA coaching and other ways of helping adults change can be enhanced. ICT is currently used worldwide in MBA classrooms, executive education programs and executive coaching contexts. Research on the impact of positive and negative emotion in intentional change can enhance these practice applications.


To date, no one has conceptualized the PEA and NEA in this manner. This proposes an enhancement of the previously developed notions of the value of positive emotion and positivity.



Howard, A. (2006), "Positive and negative emotional attractors and intentional change", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 25 No. 7, pp. 657-670.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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