There has been an increased interest in the study of underlying autonomic correlates of emotions. This study tests the hypothesis that high levels of high-frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV) are associated with positive emotions. In addition, we hypothesize that this association will differ according to the type of positive emotion. Also, based on recent findings, we tested the hypothesis that this relationship would be nonlinear. Resting-state HRV was collected and self-report measures of different positive emotions were administered to a sample of 124 volunteers. Results Results suggested that there was a quadratic relationship between high-frequency heart rate variability and positive emotions associated with safeness and contentment, but not with positive emotions associated with excitement or lack of arousal. Our data suggests that different positive emotions may be characterized by qualitatively distinct profiles of autonomic activation. Also, given the role of positive emotions in social affiliation, and particularly positive emotions associated with a quiescence motivational state, results are interpreted in light of theoretical accounts that highlight the importance of vagal regulation for social behavior.
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