Psychology Savoring
Jaime Kurtz, Kristin Layous
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0188


Savoring is defined as a process through which people up-regulate their positive feelings by directing attention to emotionally relevant events in their past, present, and future. It is conceptually distinct from pleasure because it is often more intentional and active, requiring attention and positive attributions. It is also distinct from mindfulness, which is a more nonevaluative awareness rather than a purely positive one. Finally, it is distinct from gratitude, because savoring does not require a source (i.e., being grateful to someone or something). Synonyms for savoring, while perhaps more narrow, are relishing, delighting, basking, appreciating, cherishing, enjoying, and positive emotion up-regulation.

General Overviews

The works cited here provide a general introduction and orientation to the concept of savoring from distinctly different viewpoints. Bryant and Veroff 2007 offers a book-length review of savoring, defining it and distinguishing it from related constructs, in addition to offering several measurement tools. The authors also include anecdotes, quotations, and suggestions for future research. Quoidbach, et al. 2010 offers empirical support for the effectiveness of eight specific savoring strategies, while Quoidbach, et al. 2015 discusses savoring as a deliberate emotion-regulation technique underlying the efficacy of positive emotion interventions. Miyamoto and Ma 2011 notes important cultural differences in the tendency to savor or to dampen positive emotions. Mak, et al. 2009 and Speer, et al. 2014 examine the neurological underpinnings of positive emotion regulation.

  • Bryant, Fred B., and Joseph Veroff. 2007. Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    A comprehensive review of the psychology of savoring. Discusses different types of savoring (e.g., sharing with others; memory building, self-congratulation), how savoring relates to broader concerns of health, creativity, spirituality, and interpersonal relationships, and specifically how one might savoring the past, present, and future. Several assessment techniques are provided, including the Ways of Savoring Checklist, the Savoring Beliefs Inventory, and the Children’s Savoring Beliefs Inventory. A theoretical model of the savoring process is also proposed.

  • Mak, Amanda K. Y., Zhi-Guo Hu, John X. Zhang, Zhuang-Wei Xiao, and Tatia M. C. Lee. 2009. Neural correlates of regulation of positive and negative emotions: An fMRI study. Neuroscience Letters 457:101–106.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.094

    Using fMRI scanning, participants were examined while looking at a series of emotional pictures. Some were instructed to try and regulate their emotions, others were not. Different brain regions were active when up-regulating positive emotions (prefrontal cortex, left insula) than when dampening negative emotions (anterior cingulate, left superior frontal gyrus). Participants also self-reported greater efficacy in regulating positive emotions, compared to negative.

  • Miyamoto, Yuri, and Xiaoming Ma. 2011. Dampening or savoring positive emotions: A dialectical cultural script guides emotion regulation. Emotion 11:1346–1357.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0025135

    In a series of four studies, which used both retrospective assessments and online reports, cultural scripts were shown to relate to different emotion regulation strategies in samples of American and East Asian college students. With regard to savoring, East Asian students engaged in less up-regulation of emotion following a positive event. This difference was mediated by adherence to cultural scripts regarding hedonic balance.

  • Quoidbach, Jordi, Elizabeth V. Berry, Michel Hansenne, and Moira Mikolajczak. 2010. Positive emotion regulation and well-being: Comparing the impact of eight savoring and dampening strategies. Personality and Individual Differences 49:368–373.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.03.048

    The dispositional savoring strategies of displaying positive facial expressions, being present, and engaging in positive mental time travel were related to positive affect, whereas capitalizing was related to life satisfaction. Having a diversity of savoring strategies predicted overall happiness independently from amount of savoring.

  • Quoidbach, Jordi, Moira Mikolajczak, and James Gross. 2015. Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective. Psychological Bulletin 141:655–693.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0038648

    Reviews and classifies evidence for various positive emotion upregulation strategies (including savoring) within the process model of emotion regulation that includes situation selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change/appraisal, and response modulation before, during, and after a positive event.

  • Speer, Megan E., Jamil P. Bhanji, and Mauricio R. Delgado. 2014. Savoring the past: Positive memories evoke value representations in the striatum. Neuron 84:847–856.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.09.028

    Using fMRI, participants recalling a past positive experience exhibited heightened neural activity in key brain regions (i.e., the striatum, medial prefrontal cortex) that are known to be related to reward. Findings suggest that reflecting on past, positive memories elicits rewarding emotional experiences that are evident on a neurological level.

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