Jieni Zhou savors moments of positivity

Positive emotions build strong relationships, which are vital to well-being, says the psychology doctoral student.

Jiene Zhou posing in front of Carolina campus artwork.
(image courtesy of College of Arts and Sciences)

Fifth-year psychology doctoral student Jieni Zhou is an expert in how positive experiences in romantic relationships impact our well-being.

Zhou, who is originally from Fuzhou, China, was inspired to study positive emotions and social relationships while working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Emotions and Family Relationships Lab at Bryn Mawr College. In that job, she analyzed couples’ interactions to study the emotional dynamics between partners.

“I’m intrigued by how each evanescent moment of emotions — especially the positive ones — can have implications for long-term relationship outcomes,” she says.

Her ongoing passion for social psychology comes from the “increasing research evidence to support that social relationships are vital to our mental and physical well-being, and positive emotions are crucial building blocks for flourishing relationships.” The “brilliant people and excellent instructors” in Carolina’s psychology and neuroscience department led her to becoming a Tar Heel, she says.

At Carolina, Zhou names her adviser Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotion expert and Kenan Distinguished Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience, as a guiding force in her personal and professional life.

“Our relationship is multifaceted. She is a role model whom I admire, a lab family member to whom I can turn for support during difficult times, and a mentor from whom I learn a lot about research, teaching and life wisdom.”

A traveler and photographer in her free time, Zhou emphasizes the importance of savoring “micro-moments of positivity.” In Chapel Hill, you can find her doing this at her favorite coffee shop, Coco Espresso, with a blueberry scone latte in hand.

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