▣ A.2a Positive psychology.

William Tillier

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⧈ A Few Recent References.

Menu: 2019 Update.

⧈ 2019 A.2a.1.  Introduction: Issues in psychology.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.1.1  Issues with replicability in psychology.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.1.2  Issues over statistical significance.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.1.3  Psychology in Crisis.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.1.4  References pertinent to 2019 — 1.

⧈ 2019 A.2a.2.  Positive psychology: Update.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.1  Overview.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.2  Science: breakthroughs or bankrupt?

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.3  Seligman update.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.4  Fredrickson debacle.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.5  References pertinent to the Fredrickson debacle.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.6  Positive psychology in education.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.7  References pertinent to positive psychology in education.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.8  PP 2.0 or 'second wave' PP (SWPP): The second wave of positive psychology.

⚀ 2019 A.2a.2.9  References pertinent to positive psychology in general, including PP 2.0, 2012—2019.

Menu: 2012 and before.

⧈ 2012 A.2a.1 Overview

⧈ 2012 A.2a.2 Various issues

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.1 Success of positive psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.2 Foundational concepts/Definitions

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.3 Scope and boundary issues

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.4 Disconnections from historical antecedents

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.5 Conceptual confusions/Vague conceptualizations/general criticisms

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.6 Prescriptive issues / ethnocentric – Americentric position / problem of values

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.7 Financial aspects/positive psychology as big business

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.8 The role of research

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.9 Positive versus negative psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.10 Positive psychology and definitions of mental health

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.11 Positive psychology in relation to happiness

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.12 Positive psychology in relation to humanistic psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.13 Positive psychology and cancer

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.14 Positive psychotherapy

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.15 Positive psychology in the workplace

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.16 Coaches of positive psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.17 Positive youth psychology (Positive Youth Development (PYD))

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.18 Positive psychology and conceptualizations of the self

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.19 Positive psychology in relation to personality development

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.20 Positive psychology and the American Army

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.21 Positive psychology and education

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.22 Positive psychology and neuroscience

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.23 Positive psychology and character strengths

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.24 Seligman and positive psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.25 Future issues facing positive psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.26 Other approaches related to positive psychology

⚀ 2012 A.2a.2.27 Positive psychology as it relates to Dąbrowski.

⧈ 2012 A.2a.3. Maslow 1954 Motivation and personality, chapter 18 and appendix

⧈ 2012 A.2b. Bibliography


⧈ A Few Recent References.

⚀ Baratta, M. V., Seligman, M. E., & Maier, S. F. (2023). From helplessness to controllability: Toward a neuroscience of resilience. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1170417. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1170417

⚀ Braunwalder, C., Müller, R., Glisic, M., & Fekete, C. (2022). Are positive psychology interventions efficacious in chronic pain treatment? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Medicine, 23(1), 122-136. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnab247

⚀ Carr, A., Cullen, K., Keeney, C., Canning, C., Mooney, O., Chinseallaigh, E., & O’Dowd, A. (2021). Effectiveness of positive psychology interventions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(6), 749–769. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1818807

⚀ Chang, E. C., Downey, C., Yang, H., Zettler, I., & Muyan-Yilik, M. (Eds.). (2022). The international handbook of positive psychology: A global perspective on the science of positive human existence. Springer.

⚀ Ciarrochi, J., Hayes, S. C., Oades, L. G., & Hofmann, S. G. (2022). Toward a unified framework for positive psychology interventions: Evidence-based processes of change in coaching, prevention, and training. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 809362. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.809362

⚀ Genecov, M., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2023). Optimism and pessimism. In D. J. A. Dozois & K. S. Dobson (Eds.), Treatment of psychosocial risk factors in depression (pp. 253-280). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000332-012

⚀ Kern, M. L., Williams, P., Spong, C., Colla, R., Sharma, K., Downie, A., Taylor, J. A., Sharp, S., Siokou, C., & Oades, L. G. (2020). Systems informed positive psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 15(6), 705–715. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1639799

⚀ Llewellyn E. van Zyl, Jaclyn Gaffaney, Leoni van der Vaart, Bryan J. Dik & Stewart I Donaldson (23 Feb 2023): The critiques and criticisms of positive psychology: A systematic review, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2023.2178956

⚀ Lomas, T., Waters, L., Williams, P., Oades, L. G., & Kern, M. L. (2021). Third wave positive psychology: Broadening towards complexity. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(5), 660–674. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1805501

⚀ Randolph, J. J. (Ed.). (2022). Positive neuropsychology: Evidence-based perspectives on promoting brain and cognitive health (2nd ed.). Springer Nature.

⚀ Rincón Uribe, F.A., Neira Espejo, C.A. & Pedroso, J. The role of optimism in adolescent mental health: A systematic review. J Happiness Stud 23, 815-845 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00425-x

⚀ Schulenberg, S. E. (Ed.). (2020). Positive psychological approaches to disaster: Meaning, resilience, and posttraumatic growth. Springer.

⚀ Smith, W., Boniwell, I., & Green, S. (Eds.). (2021). Positive psychology coaching in the workplace. Springer.

⚀ Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J., Marques, S. C., & Edwards, L. M. (Eds.). (2021). The Oxford handbook of positive psychology (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.

⚀ Stanley, P. J., & Schutte, N. S. (2023). Merging the Self-Determination Theory and the Broaden and Build Theory through the nexus of positive affect: A macro theory of positive functioning. New Ideas in Psychology, 68, 100979. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2022.100979

⚀ Wang, F., Guo, J., & Yang, G. (2023). Study on positive psychology from 1999 to 2021: A bibliometric analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1101157. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1101157

⚀ White, C. A., Uttl, B., & Holder, M. D. (2019). Meta-analyses of positive psychology interventions: The effects are much smaller than previously reported. PLOS ONE, 14(5), e0216588. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216588

⚀ Wissing, M. P. (2022). Beyond the “third wave of positive psychology”: Challenges and opportunities for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 795067. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.795067


⧈ 2019 A.2.1. Introduction: Issues in psychology.

⚀ In this update I am not going to go into the depth that I did in my 2012 review. I am not going to provide a review of the pertinent literature for each topic. I'm going to briefly highlight a number of issues and provide relevant references, grouped by topic, so that the reader can explore independently.

⚀ In psychology, in general, two issues have come up that are receiving major attention: replication and statistical significance.


⚀ 2019 A.2.1.1 Issues with replicability in psychology.

□ Perhaps the largest study on reproducibility in psychology is provided by Aarts, Anderson, Attridge, Attwood, Axt, Babel, J., … (2015, p. 943). “We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available. … collectively these results offer a clear conclusion: A large portion of replications produced weaker evidence for the original findings despite using materials provided by the original authors, review in advance for methodological fidelity, and high statistical power to detect the original effect sizes. Moreover, correlational evidence is consistent with the conclusion that variation in the strength of initial evidence (such as original P value) was more predictive of replication success than variation in the characteristics of the teams conducting the research (such as experience and expertise). The latter factors certainly can influence replication success, but they did not appear to do so here"

□ Other standout articles are: Flis, (2019); Lilienfeld, (2017); Shrout, and Rodgers, (2018).


⚀ 2019 A.2.1.2 Issues over statistical significance.

□ The use of significance testing is being questioned in broader scientific research. For example, Amrhein, Greenland, & McShane, (2019, p. 306) stated: “Unfortunately, the false belief that crossing the threshold of statistical significance is enough to show that a result is 'real' has led scientists and journal editors to privilege such results, thereby distorting the literature. Statistically significant estimates are biased upwards in magnitude and potentially to a large degree, whereas statistically non-significant estimates are biased downwards in magnitude. Consequently, any discussion that focuses on estimates chosen for their significance will be biased.” … “we are not advocating a ban on P values, confidence intervals or other statistical measures—only that we should not treat them categorically. This includes dichotomization as statistically significant or not, as well as categorization based on other statistical measures such as Bayes factors.” 

□ For an excellent up-to-date general introduction to the area, see the special issue devoted to the topic: Kmetz, (2019) and Wasserstein, Schirm, & Lazar, (2019).

□ In terms of psychology, an excellent article is by Lambdin, (2012, p. 67), who states: “This paper will revisit and summarize the arguments of those who have been trying to tell us for more than 70 years—that p values are not empirical. If these arguments are sound, then the continuing popularity of significance tests in our peer-reviewed journals is at best embarrassing and at worst intellectually dishonest."


⚀ 2019 A.2.1.3 “Psychology in Crisis.”

□ I have included this third topic as I'm going to be suggesting that the emphasis on positive psychology over the last 20 years should represent a major existential threat to psychology as a profession and certainly should provoke a crisis response. If you look at the literature, it would seem that psychology is in perennial crisis. Again, I will not review the literature in detail but will provide some highlighted examples.

□ The topic of psychology in crisis has received a number of book length treatments—for example, Dawes, (1993); Hughes, (2018); and Kagan, (2012). Representative articles include: Bakan, (1996); Dafermos, (2015); Goertzen, (2008); Henriques & Cobb, [Special issue] (2004); Henriques, [Special issue] (2005); Sturm & Mülberger, [Special section] (2012); and Wieser, (2016). For a comprehensive historical treatment see Sturm & Mülberger, (2012), an introduction to a special section on the history of psychology in crises. Goertzen, (2008, p. 637) stated: “I cannot review all of the existing literature on the crisis [in psychology] in this paper. Speaking from experience, I can safely say that such a review literally requires a booklength treatment.”


⚀ 2019 A.2.1.4 References pertinent to 2019 - 1.

□ Replicability.

◘ Aarts, A., Anderson, J., Attridge, C., Attwood, P., Axt, A., Babel, J., &… (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 943-943. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac4716

◘ Anderson, Bahník, Barnett-Cowan, Bosco, Chandler, Chartier,  …  Anderson, Christopher J. (2016). Response to Comment on Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 351(6277).

◘ Baker, M. (2016). 1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility. Nature, 533(7604), 452–454. https://doi.org/10.1038/533452a

◘ Bartlett, T. (2018). I Want to Burn Things to the Ground. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1-11. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/I-Want-to-Burn-Things-to/244488?key=ONA-J8qTe05O7njbTd0tJxVPc8Wh8rPZLgfV3j9qtQvPw_NSaQoPLX5LOtOxfok8TDJSbDZYakViRTN1RW9qdjFKT1BZUUJTc3dBUjM0N1AyRlFJV2dnVzEyQQ

◘ Donnellan, M. B., & Lucas, R. E. (2018). Introduction to the special issue - A replication project in personality psychology. Journal of Research in Personality, 72, 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2017.11.004

◘ Flis, I. (2019). Psychologists psychologizing scientific psychology: An epistemological reading of the replication crisis. Theory and Psychology, 29(2), 158-181. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354319835322

◘ Freese, J., & Peterson, D. (2017). Replication in social science. Annual Review of Sociology, 43(1), 147-165. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-060116-053450

◘ Gilbert, D., King, G., Pettigrew, S., & Wilson, T. (2016). Comment on Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 351(6277), 1037. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aad7243

◘ John, L. K., Loewenstein, G., & Prelec, D. (2012). Measuring the prevalence of questionable research practices with incentives for truth telling. Psychological Science, 23(5), 524–532. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611430953

◘ Laws, K. R. (2016). Psychology, replication & beyond. BMC Psychology, 4(1), 2-9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-016-0135-2

◘ Lilienfeld, S. O. (2017). Psychology's replication crisis and the grant culture: Righting the ship. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 660-664. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691616687745

◘ Maxwell, S. E., Lau, M. Y., & Howard, G. S. (2015). Is psychology suffering from a replication crisis? What does “failure to replicate” really mean? American Psychologist, 70(6), 487-498. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039400

◘ Pashler, H., & Wagenmakers, E.-J. (2012). Editors' introduction to the special section on replicability in psychological science: A crisis of confidence? [Special section] Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 528-530. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691612465253

◘ Shrout, P. E., & Rodgers, J. L. (2018). Psychology, science, and knowledge construction: Broadening perspectives from the replication crisis. Annual Review of Psychology, 69(1), 487-510. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122216-011845

◘ Tackett, J. L., Brandes, C. M., King, K. M., & Markon, K. E. (2019). Psychology's replication crisis and clinical psychological science. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15(1), 579-604. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050718-095710

□ Statistical Significance.

◘ Amrhein, V., & Mcshane, B. (2019). It's time to talk about ditching statistical significance. Nature, 567(7748), 283-283. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-00874-8

◘ Amrhein, V., Greenland, S., & McShane, B. (2019). Scientists rise up against statistical significance. Nature, 567(7748), 305-307. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-00857-9

◘ Denworth, L. (2019, October). A Significant Problem Standard scientific methods are under fire. Will anything change? Scientific American, 63-67.

◘ García-Pérez, M. A. (2017). Thou shalt not bear false witness against null hypothesis significance testing. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 77(4), 631-662. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013164416668232

◘ Greenland, S., Senn, S. J., Rothman, K. J., Carlin, J. B., Poole, C., Goodman, S. N., & Altman, D. G. (2016). Statistical tests, P values, confidence intervals, and power: A guide to misinterpretations. European Journal of Epidemiology, 31(4), 337-350. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-016-0149-3

◘ Kmetz, J. L. (2019). Correcting corrupt research: Recommendations for the profession to stop misuse of p-Values. American Statistician, 73(sup1), 36-45. https://doi.org/10.1080/00031305.2018.1518271

◘ Krawczyk, M. (2015). The search for significance: A few peculiarities in the distribution of p values in experimental psychology literature. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0127872. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127872

◘ Lambdin, C. (2012). Significance tests as sorcery: Science is empirical-significance tests are not. Theory & Psychology, 22(1), 67-90. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354311429854

◘ Nickerson, R. S. (2000). Null hypothesis significance testing: A review of an old and continuing controversy. Psychological Methods, 5(2), 241-301. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.5.2.241

◘ Spreckelsen, T. F. (2018). Editorial: Changes in the field: Banning p-values (or not), transparency, and the opportunities of a renewed discussion on rigorous (quantitative) research. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 23(2), 61-62. https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12277

◘ Wasserstein, R. L., Schirm, A. L., & Lazar, N. A. (2019). Moving to a world beyond “p < 0.05.” American Statistician, 73(sup1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00031305.2019.1583913

□ Crisis in Psychology.

◘ Bakan, D. (1996). The crisis in psychology. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 5(4), 335-342. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02092909

◘ Dafermos, M. (2015). Rethinking the crisis in social psychology: A dialectical perspective. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9(8), 394-405. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12187

◘ Dawes, R. M. (1993). House of cards: Psychology and psychotherapy built on myth. New York: Free Press.

◘ Goertzen, J. R. (2008). On the possibility of unification: The reality and nature of the crisis in psychology. Theory & Psychology, 18(6), 829-852. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354308097260

◘ Henriques, G. R. (2005). A new vision for the field: Introduction to the second special issue on the unified theory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(1), 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20087

◘ Henriques, G. R., & Cobb, H. C. (2004). Introduction to the special issues on the unified theory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60(12), 1203–1205. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20060

◘ Hughes, B. M. (2018). Psychology in crisis. London: Palgrave.

◘ Kagan, J. (2012). Psychology's ghosts: The crisis in the profession and the way back. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

◘ Sturm, T., & Mülberger, A. (2012). Crisis discussions in psychology: New historical and philosophical perspectives. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43(2), 425-433. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2011.11.001

◘ Wieser, M. (2016). Psychology's “crisis” and the need for reflection. A plea for modesty in psychological theorizing. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 50(3), 359-367. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-016-9343-9


⧈ 2019 A.2.2. Positive psychology: Update.

⚀ 2019 A.2.2.1 Overview.

□ It seems to me that on the whole the positive psychology movement looks more and more like just another hollow fad. I hope it isn't for the sake of psychology but, as far as I can see, there's no reason to see light at the end of the tunnel. I've included a section above on crisis in psychology because, in my opinion, what we see going on with the positive psychology movement certainly deserves a crisis-level response to right the course of psychology.

□ In terms of the issue of science versus fad we need to return to the beginning:

□ A decade later, the 'third way' heralded by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and other humanistic psychologists promised to add a new perspective to the entrenched clinical and behaviorist approaches. The generous humanistic vision had a strong effect on the culture at large and held enormous promise. Unfortunately, humanistic psychology did not attract much of a cumulative empirical base, and it spawned myriad therapeutic self-help movements. In some of its incarnations, it emphasized the self and encouraged a self-centeredness that played down concerns for collective well-being. Future debate will determine whether this came about because Maslow and Rogers were ahead of their times, because these flaws were inherent in their original vision, or because of overly enthusiastic followers. However, one legacy of the humanism of the 1960s is prominently displayed in any large bookstore: The 'psychology' section contains at least 10 shelves on crystal healing, aromatherapy, and reaching the inner child for every shelf of books that tries to uphold some scholarly standard” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000 p. 7). Ironically, Seligman's own books, in particular, Flourish (2011) and The Hope Circuit (2018b) certainly take a prominent place on the same shelf.

□ One of the key impressions I have of positive psychology is that it is extremely reductionistic and flattens out emotions, only emphasizing one side of the emotional spectrum. This quote illustrates my concern:  “The positive, optimistic attitude that Seligman associates with achievement, success and happiness (and which he exemplifies with a successful insurance salesman—see Seligman, 2006, Chapter 6) seems moreover to pre-suppose a very narrow range of emotional response. Indeed, one might argue that it is the mark of wisdom and maturity, of an appreciation of the mysteries, tragedies and ironies of life, not to respond unambiguously positively or negatively, optimistically or pessimistically, to any given situation. The model of mental health depicted by positive psychology turns out to be little more than a caricature of an extravert—a bland, shallow, goal-driven careerist whose positive attitudes, certainties and ‘high self-esteem’ mask the fact that he lacks the very qualities that would enable him to attain a degree of true self-knowledge or wisdom, and to really grow as a human being.…The danger is that instead of fostering the true learning that develops self-knowledge and wisdom, and instead of considering the social and political measures that might really improve people’s circumstances, positive psychology offers a substitute recipe for success, achievement and happiness that ultimately has no substance at all” (Miller, 2008, p. 606). This certainly seems to represent a caricature of what a fully authentic human being represents.

□ "The Western world has been introduced to, and increasingly troubled by, the idea of positive psychology and the life-story of its founder Martin Seligman for some time. In 2018, Forbes magazine published an article titled Positive Psychology Is Garbage (And Why You Should Follow Its Founder's Lead). The author of this piece, Michael Schein, tried to trace the troubled genealogy of Martin Seligman's career in the field of psychology, claiming that 'only a true marketing wizard could transform his image from that of a guy best known for torturing dogs into the world's foremost apostle of happiness'. This quote perhaps sums up the direction of inquiry that this and other scientific and philosophical papers have recently take on positive psychology" (Peters & Tesar, 2019, p. 1).


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.2 Science: breakthroughs or bankrupt?

□ One of the founding pillars of positive psychology was the idea that it be based on rigourous scientific study. “The authors outline a framework for a science of positive psychology, point to gaps in our knowledge, and predict that the next century will see a science and profession that will come to understand and build the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5). Seligman threw down the gauntlet: “In discussing the future impact of positive psychology, we need to emphasize the qualification ‘if successful.’ Ten years from now, what criteria might we use to judge whether this fledgling movement, begun in 1998, succeeded? The first criterion is surely serious scientific discovery. Neither the present science nor the mere addition of well-intentioned armchair tracts (e.g., this one) about the importance of positivity will be sufficient to generate a field we would count as successful” (Seligman & Peterson, 2003, p. 306).

□ Has the goal of making positive psychology scientific been successful?

□ The following quote captures my position and answers the question in the negative: “Since its advent as a relatively new subdiscipline, positive psychology has claimed superiority to its precursor, the subdiscipline of humanistic psychology, in terms of supposedly both using more rigorous science and avoiding popularizing nonsense. The debunking of the critical positivity ratio demonstrates that positive psychology did not live up to these claims, and this has important implications, which are discussed in terms of ‘romantic scientism’ and ‘voodoo science.’ In addition, articles in the special issue on the Implications of Debunking the ‘Critical Positivity Ratio for Humanistic Psychology’ are introduced, as they also delve into these concerns” (Friedman & Brown, 2018, pp. 239-240).

◘ [Begin quote] Meanwhile, Seligman has a website at www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home, named after one of his popular books and containing a wealth of questionnaires, tools, and other material explicitly branded as positive psychology. The front page has the following invitation:

Feeling Blue? Take a Facebook quiz to get your personal depression score and a set of depression-related words you use in your social-media status updates.

◘  [quote continues] The underlying message of these and other websites is unmistakeable. Feeling a little down today? Now we can use a scientific test to tell you whether you are as happy as you thought you were. And guess what? You’re not.You could be flourishing but you’re languishing, your mental health is incomplete and sub-optimal, the ratio of your emotions is all wrong.You need to do something about that! And by a stroke of luck, we have the solution right here, at the bargain price of … [End quote] (Thompson, 2018, p. 75)

□ This page-long quote sets the stage for Seligman to promote himself as not only a scientist, but a conservative one, with no time for “pop psychology.” The quote also illustrates a motivation of Seligman's to create positive psychology—as he puts it here, he found dealing with people who have problems a depressing drag.

◘ [Begin quote] This book will help you flourish.

There, I have finally said it.

I have spent my professional life avoiding unguarded promises like this one. I am a research scientist, and a conservative one at that. The appeal of what I write comes from the fact that it is grounded in careful science: statistical tests, validated questionnaires, thoroughly researched exercises, and large, representative samples. In contrast to pop psychology and the bulk of self-improvement, my writings are believable because of the underlying science.

My thinking about the goal of psychology has changed since I published my last book (Authentic Happiness, 2002) and, even better, psychology itself is also changing. I have spent most of my life working on psychology’s venerable goal of relieving misery and uprooting the disabling conditions of life. Truth be told, this can be a drag. Taking the psychology of misery to heart—as you must when you work on depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia, trauma, and the panoply of suffering that makes up psychology-as-usual’s primary material—can be a vexation to the soul. While we do more than our bit to increase the well-being of our clients, psychology-as-usual typically does not do much for the well-being of its practitioners. If anything changes in the practitioner, it is a personality shift toward depression.

I have been part of a tectonic upheaval in psychology called positive psychology, a scientific and professional movement. In 1998, as president of the American Psychological Association (APA), I urged psychology to supplement its venerable goal with a new goal: exploring what makes life worth living and building the enabling conditions of a life worth living. The goal of understanding well-being and building the enabling conditions of life is by no means identical with the goal of understanding misery and undoing the disabling conditions of life. At this moment, several thousand people around the world work in this field and are striving to further these goals. This book narrates their story, or at least the public face of their story.

The private face also needs to be shown. Positive psychology makes people happier. Teaching positive psychology, researching positive psychology, using positive psychology in practice as a coach or therapist, giving positive psychology exercises to tenth graders in a classroom, parenting little kids with positive psychology, teaching drill sergeants how to teach about post-traumatic growth, meeting with other positive psychologists, and just reading about positive psychology all make people happier. The people who work in positive psychology are the people with the highest well-being I have ever known.

The content itself—happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships—constitutes human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing. Glimpsing the vision of a flourishing human future is life changing.

And so this book will increase your well-being—and it will help you flourish [End quote] Seligman (2011, pp. 1-2).

□ Interested readers should consult Wong's review of this book (Wong, 2011a).

◘ [Begin quote] Given positive psychology’s insistence that its science is the basis for its superiority, it is ironic that a number of prominent positive psychologists have been tarnished by scandals involving shoddy science or ethical lapses. Self-aggrandizing claims (e.g., 'visionary,' 'top-rated research,' 'top-notch') are sometimes attached to research that is riddled with rudimentary errors or that flouts standard scientific practices. Perhaps the most notorious example is the 'critical positivity ratio' put forward by Barbara Fredrickson (Fredrickson, 2009; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005) and heralded widely by her fellow positive psychologists. Expert scrutiny of the “critical positivity ratio” proved it to be “entirely fanciful” and to rest on “completely illusory 'applications' of mathematics” (Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2013, p. 812). Another troubling example is the multimillion-dollar Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, initiated in 2008 by Martin Seligman. At the outset, Seligman confidently predicted that CSF would “transform the practice of psychology and psychology’s relation to medicine and education” (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 82). These authors further boasted that the program would amass an: … unprecedented database for the prospective longitudinal study of the effects of psychological variables on physical health, mental health, and performance …  . We predict that this database will become a national treasure for psychological and medical research (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85)

[quote continues] Unfortunately, independent reviews of the outcome of CSF training have proved disappointing, and have even suggested possible negative effects (Brown, 2015; Institute of Medicine, 2014). Subsequently – and in contradiction to the ethos of openness on which scientific progress is based – no further reports regarding the outcomes of CSF training have appeared. Nor – despite the promise of a “national treasure” of data for researchers – have data been made available for scrutiny. Such incidents of hyped-up promises and pseudo-findings are especially troubling because of the myriad of advice blogs, self-help books, and academic curricula for training practitioners that rely on this research base [End quote] (Marecek & Christopher, 2018, p. 93).

□ One of the founding objectives of PP has been to present itself as a scientific endeavor, as attested by quotes such as: “Positive psychology is psychology – psychology is science – and science requires checking theories against evidence” (Peterson, 2009, p. XXIII) or “We are, unblushingly, scientists first” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2001, p. 89). From the very beginning of positive psychology, its main authors have made a strenuous effort to differentiate it from what science is not, such as self-help (Seligman, 1999). This regular insistence on the status of positive psychology as a science, indeed as a rigorous science, might perhaps indicate that the authors of these statements have their doubts about it. Certain statements about science are more rhetorical than real …  . Faced with this historical and geographical panorama, PP proposes a positive outlook on the human condition. The decision is brave and bold, but the scientific data to support it are nonexistent. It is a legitimate point of view to hold, of course, but not a scientific one. Positive psychology tends to present itself as a secular alternative to traditional religions. It is in this sense that Peterson and Park (2003) explicitly warned that PP should not be taken as an “ideological movement or secular religion” (p. 145). Similarly, Lazarus (2003b, p. 176) stated that in his opinion, proponents of PP were “promoting a kind of religion, a vision from on high, which is falsely clothed in a claim to science that never materializes.” It is not acceptable in scientific discourse to confuse beliefs with data, although the confusion is more common than recognized” (Moreno-Jiménez & Aguirre-Camacho, 2018, pp. 122-123).

□ “Throughout the last 20 years many authors have emphasized science when discussing positive psychology. This trend continues: “Positive psychology is about well-being and human strengths. It is about the scientific study of these things. It is also about how to apply this scientific knowledge in clinical settings, schools, organisations and most importantly in our day-to-day lives to help us to thrive” (Carr, 2020, p. 3).

□ “Given that science by nature is incremental and integrative, it is neither scholarly nor ethical for PP researchers to only focus on recent publications by members of the PP community, as if they have created a new science and the older work is not worth reading. Such a myopic view of the literature is partially responsible for the backlash against PP; most researchers would react negatively if a positive psychologist failed to cite their prior work and claimed to have discovered something new” (Wong & Roy, 2018, p. 143).

□ In this same vein, Seligman pronounced: “However, Abraham Maslow did come too early. Scientific psychology did not take him seriously. Maslow himself recognized that he wanted scientific respect above all, and his research assistant Bob Gable, in a revealing personal letter in 2001, wrote to me, Abe would have been happier with something that never happened—a return phone call from Fred Skinner. Rather than carry out mainstream science on his ideas, his followers, calling themselves humanistic psychologists, developed their own qualitative and nonexperimental methods. Humanistic Psychology’s then-radical ideas combined with its less-than-rigorous methods made it doubly difficult for science to digest, hence its present status as scientific backwater that is separate from Positive Psychology (Waterman 2013). Positive Psychology keeps some of the radical ideas, but it uses conventional, rigorous methods. In fact, I had not read much Maslow, and so his writings had only a negligible role in my own thinking. Had I invoked Maslow, however appropriately, it would have been window dressing. Positive Psychology arose directly from my take on the shortcomings of mainstream clinical and experimental science” (Seligman, 2019, p. 19).

□ I think another aspect that jumps out when you read the literature on positive psychology is a tremendous sense of naivety for lack of a better word. Some authors appear to defend positive psychology uncritically. For example, “However, there has also been some recent criticism of positive psychology. It suggests that we have been sold an impossible dream by advocates of ‘ra-ra’ happiness and purveyors of Pollyanna unrealism. Critics object to alleged assertions that people should be happy all the time and that we should strive to be happy every moment of every day. At times critics have confused true positive psychology with the 1960s ‘smile and be happy’ school of personal development which went out of fashion two decades ago.” 

—Without even referencing a single source of criticism the author goes on:

 “This criticism does a major disservice to the significant amount of valuable research done under the positive psychology umbrella. It also does a disservice to the claimants who appear to have seen the opportunity to make money by writing a book debunking something which was not there in the first place. There is, for example, positive psychology research that suggests that too high a level of intense happiness in fact has a negative effect on health” (Driver, 2011, p. 6).

□ “Again uncritically, Driver (2011, P. 27) goes on to quote Fredrickson's ratio and to endorse it in his role as a coach: “as a general rule, a ratio of 3 or more positive emotions to one negative seems to keep the balance (Fredrickson 2010). What is clear is that part of the coach's role is to help the coachee keep in a positive state, focussing much more on strengths than weaknesses.” Later, the author goes on: “While a minimum ratio of 3:1 is needed to balance things out, Fredrickson has found a further point around 4 or 5 positive to 1 negative, beyond which individuals really flourish. In relationships this means the difference between lasting successful marriages and ones which come to an end. In business this means the crucial difference between individuals and teams which deliver consistent high performance and those which perform poorly” (Driver, 2011, p. 47) [notice that no reference is given to this “4 or 5 positive to 1 negative” prescription to flourish—Fredrickson's book quotes Gottman suggesting that marriages that flourish have a 5 to 1 ratio; she quotes Schwartz's research suggesting the “optimal positivity ratio” is 4 to 1].

□ White, Uttl, & Holder, (2019, p. 1) stated: “For at least four decades, researchers have studied the effectiveness of interventions designed to increase well-being. These interventions have become known as positive psychology interventions (PPIs)." The authors reexamined “two highly cited meta-analyses that examined the effectiveness of PPIs on well-being and depression: Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) and Bolier et al. (2013).” “The present study revealed three key findings: (1) many of the primary studies used a small sample size; (2) small sample size bias was pronounced in many of the analyses; and (3) when small sample size bias was taken into account, the effect of PPIs on well-being were small but significant (approximately r = .10), whereas the effect of PPIs on depression were variable, dependent on outliers, and generally not statistically significant.” “Critically, both meta-analyses reviewed, did not include a large number of relevant studies, and thus, effect sizes estimated from their sample of primary studies need to be confirmed by future, more comprehensive, meta-analyses. Accordingly, a comprehensive and transparent meta-analysis of all relevant studies of PPIs is necessary” (White, Uttl, & Holder, 2019, p. 42).

□ In summary, much of the literature on positive psychology lacks academic rigour and is generally uncritical.


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.3 Seligman update.

□ I am including a brief update on Seligman here because historically he was considered the father of positive psychology and largely remains so. It's very disheartening to read Seligman because he comes across as a narcissistic and unbelievably self-absorbed individual. I'm only going to give three main examples here but I could give pages and pages.

□ Here is Seligman describing his memories as an eight-year-old competing in a school quiz competition.

 [Begin quote] AND NOW FOR the finals. The fourth grader who gets all of these right will be Albany’s Quiz Kid,” said the announcer to the expectant audience of about two hundred parents, teachers, and students assembled in the Madison Theater.

“There are only two of you left. Martin Seligman, you have ten seconds. What state ends in ‘ut’?”

“Connecticut,” I snapped back.” “The moment actually arrived. “Connecticut is right, Martin. Now, Rocco, your question. How many Little Peppers are there?”

Rocco Giaccomino, from somewhere in lower Albany, a place my family wouldn’t even drive through, pondered.

“Five,” he ventured. I was sure he was guessing. I didn’t know why, but I too would have guessed five.


And so it went through six more rounds.

“Martin. Who wrote ‘Flow Gently Sweet Afton,’ and where it is?” I’d never remotely heard of this. The Afton must be a river. In Ireland? But not in any song we sang in School 16.

“England,” I blurted out right before the bell.

“Incorrect! Rocco?”

“Scotland. ‘Flow Gently Sweet Afton’ is a poem by Burns… Robert Burns,” said Rocco with finality.

On the way out of the theater, Beth said disconsolately, “How can they expect an eight-year-old to know Robert Burns?”

I took home a Mickey Mouse watch with a fire-engine-red wristband. Rocco, unfairly all of nine and taught by Scottish spinsters, went to Chicago [End quote] (Seligman, 2018b, pp. 24-25).

□ Here is Seligman complaining that he was discriminated against and didn't get his proper recognition as school valedictorian.

[Begin quote] Graduation was a glum affair for me. Dan was valedictorian of our class—although fifty years later, my friend Doug North, valedictorian of 1958 and the new headmaster, sent me an official transcript stating that I had actually graduated first in the class. I did not receive the various academic prizes that I felt I had earned. Instead they were distributed to the boys whose families were most likely to support the Academy financially in future years. I felt more a failure than a triumphant graduate sallying forth to conquer new worlds. I was going to Princeton, and that should have been cause for celebration, but so were four of my classmates, and I was, after all, a Harvard reject [End quote] (Seligman, 2018b, p. 43).

□ Finally, it's hard to believe how self-absorbed Seligman can be but here is his description of taking his girlfriend to a restaurant to propose.

[Begin quote] I took Mandy to Le Jardin, a restaurant in Soho with London’s most celebrated cellar of very old clarets. I had my mother’s diamond engagement ring—the one from Adrian—in my pocket. The evening, however, refused to come off flawlessly.

I looked over Le Jardin’s legendary wine list, and the sommelier and I had a long and pretentious discussion. The corks in 1945 had gone bad because of the war, the Pauillacs did not age as well as the St. Estephes, and so on. I could not seem to rein myself in and focus on the main event. I ordered a 1949 Lynch-Bages. It was very expensive and their last bottle. It was brought out with great ceremony and skillfully decanted. I swirled, I swirled again, I inhaled, and I sipped. It was far gone, over the hill. The sommelier, with aplomb, whisked it away. The patrons nearby noticed this and glanced our way surreptitiously. The sommelier handed me the list, and once again we had an overly long discussion of the merits of the 1945s, 1947s, and 1949s. I couldn’t shut up. He couldn’t shut up. I chose a 1947 Calon-Segur. More ceremony, cork sniffing, and decanting. The other patrons were staring openly. Oh my God, this one is also bad. Could I restrain myself and just accept it? Of course not; I enumerated its defects. This time the sommelier tasted it before sending it away. Mandy seemed uncharacteristically impatient. The wine list again. The discussion. “Third bottle,” the sommelier said, “you pay half no matter what.” I agreed and ordered the 1949 Talbot, not the greatest but the longest-lived of clarets. The ceremony, the decanting, the cork sniffing, and all the nearby patrons now no longer eating and staring.

The Talbot was perfect, heavenly in fact. The sommelier relaxed, Mandy relaxed, and the room broke into polite applause.

I dropped to my knees and took out the ring. Mandy beamed and softly said, “Yes.” The room broke into prolonged, booming applause [End quote] (Seligman, 2018b, p. 189).

□ I cannot imagine a worse role model for psychology or for positive psychology.

□ The second controversial aspect since my last update is Seligman's role in advising the Army and CIA. Specifically, it is widely alleged and/or assumed that when he met with CIA officials, he tutored them in how to make prisoners helpless as part of their interrogation. He has denied this. Here is a place to start: (Seligman, 2018a).


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.4 Fredrickson debacle.

□ Here is an excellent and succinct summary.

◘ [Begin quote] A claim was recently made that there is a critical positivity ratio (also called the 'Losada line') that is an exact number, based on the ratio of positive to negative self-reported or observed emotions, that is allegedly an invariant constant bifurcating languishing from flourishing in all individuals and social groups across all time and space (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). This was defined precisely as '2.9013' and asserted to be a universal 'tipping point' (cf. Gladwell, 2000). It is computed by dividing the quantity of positive by negative emotions as measured in various arbitrary ways, but was claimed to be derivative of the famous Lorenz equations in physics. Individuals whose self-thoughts evaluated in terms of positive to negative fall below this critical positivity ratio would be depressed, according to this claim. Similarly, married couples whose communications fall below this critical positivity ratio would be unhappy and at risk for divorce. Likewise, work teams whose communications fall below this critical positivity ratio would fail to be productive. In contrast to individuals, couples, and work teams who would supposedly languish due to having a critical positivity ratio below 2.9013, those whose critical positivity ratio exceeded this alleged tipping point would supposedly flourish, as individuals and couples with such a fortuitous critical positivity ratio would be happy, and work teams productive.
This claim was published in the flagship journal of the world’s largest psychology organization, the American Psychologist (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005), and presumably went through a rigorous peer-review process. It also was covered in a popular book (Fredrickson, 2009) that received highest praise from many of the most well-known positive psychologists. This claim also received almost a thousand citations in the scholarly literature, generated nearly a million hits on a Google search, and has been widely influential in numerous applications (e.g., in education, government, and healthcare).
The problem is that the critical positivity ratio is invalid. Its mathematics were shown to be wrong (Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2013), and this was acknowledged through a retraction of the mathematics and the claim for 2.9013 as being a precise universal and invariant constant (Fredrickson & Losada, 2013), but Fredrickson (2013) continued to assert that there was empirical evidence for a tipping point somewhere around “3.” This claim too was shown to be invalid (Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2014a).
…What were the implicit values that allowed the critical positivity ratio to be blindly accepted and even lauded by some as the best work in positive psychology? In a naïve belief in the power of science to arrive at simple solutions to complex problems, positive psychology uncritically accepted the erroneous claim that the critical positivity ratio was based on the science of physics (i.e., chaos theory and its related mathematics, namely complex systems dynamics), so it had “source validity” stemming from valuing the legitimacy of physics, even if misapplied to psychology. [End quote] (Robbins & Friedman, 2018, pp. 20-21).

□ Overview Here is the story in a nutshell. Fredrickson has focused her work on her broaden and build theory of positive emotions. She got an email from Losada, a mathematician/expert in chaos who said his nonlinear dynamic model represented key tenets of Fredrickson’s work on positive emotions. She said because his work had been published in peer-reviewed publications she accepted it at face value. The two wrote an article that was published in American Psychologist (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). She continued to promote the theory, for example in her 2009 book (Fredrickson, 2009). In 2013 an article was published debunking the mathematics behind the 2005 article (Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2013). Also in 2013, Fredrickson responded by essentially defending the construct (Fredrickson, 2013). At the end of the day, Fredrickson simply said I didn't understand it—that was his part of the paper. But, amazingly, she then says that she reconsidered the situation and stands behind the idea of a 3 to 1 ratio of positive and negative emotion. She now says the contributions of Losada should be seen as "compelling and useful metaphors rather than as mathematically precise prescriptions” (Fredrickson, 2013 August 30). “To be clear, the work of Brown and colleagues (2013) did not question the validity of the empirical evidence, offered in Fredrickson and Losada (2005), that fourishing is associated with higher positivity ratios than is non-fourishing” (Fredrickson, 2013. p. 817). “In sum, then, the claim that fourishing mental health is associated with higher positivity ratios than is non-fourishing remains unchallenged (Fredrickson, 2013, p. 819). I think it is noteworthy that the American Psychologist did not call for the retraction of the original paper but rather published Fredrickson's defence and a subsequent discussion of the merits (Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2014a; Brown, Sokal, & Friedman, 2014b; Guastello, 2014; Hämäläinen, Luoma, & Saarinen, 2014; Lefebvre, & Schwartz, 2014; Musau, 2014; Nickerson, 2014). Also see the special issue devoted to the topic: (Friedman & Brown, 2018). In turn, Nickerson, (2018) gives a rebuttal to the Fredrickson 2013 article (This is a good article to start with if you want to look at this body of literature).

□ 2005 “P/N = (c – Y 0 – 1) b –1, where P/N is the ratio of positivity to negativity; c is connectivity, the control parameter Y 0 is 16, the value of the transient before the attractor settles; and b –1 is the inverse of the Lorenz constant, equal to 0.375” (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 682). “Using the above equation, it is known that the positivity ratio equivalent to r = 24.7368 is 2.9013. Mathematically, then, a positivity ratio of about 2.9 bifurcates the complex dynamics of fourishing from the limit cycle of languishing. We call this dividing line the Losada line. From a psychological standpoint, this ratio may seem absurdly precise. Yet we underscore that this bifurcation point is a mathematically derived theoretical ideal. Empirical observations made at various levels of measurement precision can test this prediction” (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 683).

□ 2009 I am going to provide three quotations that illustrate that Fredrickson was completely enamored with Losada and his approach and obviously unable to critically evaluate the work that she was endorsing and promoting. [Begin quote] Hours into our lively discussion, he made a bold claim: based on his mathematical work, he could locate the exact positivity ratio that would distinguish those who flourished from those who didn't. I countered with an offer: if he could find that ratio, I'd test it against data on the day-to-day emotional lives of people who I knew could be classified as flourishing or not. Both sensing that this could be a huge discovery, we vowed to collaborate. Our mutual aim was to discover and test this ratio, and, if the data held up, write a paper together. As the weeks unfolded, the match between Marcial's mathematics and my theory and data continued to amaze me. I needed to clear the decks to make room for this sudden new turn in my research program. I wanted to do it justice. Thanks to the John Templeton Foundation, I arranged a mini-sabbatical for the following semester. I was released from my teaching duties so I could immerse myself in the science of dynamic systems that Marcial had introduced me to. I took on the task of introducing this perspective to the science of positive psychology. Having done so, [Fredrickson and Losada (2005)] I'd now like to share it with you. You already know that positivity broadens your mind (chapter 4), builds your best future (chapter 5), and fuels your resilience (chapter 6). Now let's explore how positivity and negativity work together to tip your life toward flourishing. I'll start by describing Marcial's discovery about positivity [End quote] (Fredrickson, 2009, pp. 216-217).

◘ [Begin quote] What I love about Losada's work is that it translates the two core truths in my broaden-and-build theory into the language of mathematics. The first core truth, detailed in chapter 4, holds that positivity opens us— it broadens our minds and our hearts. Resonating with this core truth, Losada's math shows how positivity goes hand-in-hand with asking questions and focusing outward. That is, it was Losada's high-performing teams who were most open to new ideas. They were a testament to what a synergistic group of open minds might accomplish. The second core truth of my broaden-and-build theory, showcased in chapter 5, is that positivity transforms us for the better— it builds our resources. Aligned with this core truth, Losada's math shows how positivity comes with greater social resources. That is, as positivity increased, so did the connectivity or attunement within the team itself. When positivity was high, team members were more responsive to one another. Also aligned with this second core truth, Losada's math shows how positivity links up with doing well, with business success. And, as icing on the cake, my work, described in chapter 6, shows how positivity helps you bounce back from adversity. Losada's math shows this, too [End quote] (Fredrickson, 2009, pp. 224-225).

◘ [Begin quote] So Losada's life's work and mine complement each other with stunning beauty. Losada's work on positivity was richly descriptive and distilled into mathematics. By contrast, my own work on positivity was grounded in evolutionary theory and supported by experiments. Whereas Losada's work could not support causal claims about positivity, mine could. That's the difference between descriptive and experimental research. Even so, Losada's work broke new ground beyond what I could have imagined from my theory and data alone. That's what's unique about mathematical modeling. Weaving our two scientific strands together, Losada and I created a whole new portrait of positivity [End quote] (Fredrickson, 2009, pp. 225-226).

□ 2011 Algoe, Fredrickson, & Chow, (2011, p. 118) stated: [Begin quote] Based on mathematical modeling and tested against observed data from multiple laboratories, Fredrickson and Losada (2005) proposed that a ratio of about 3 to 1 is the tipping point beyond which humans begin to function at optimal levels.…Positivity ratios above 3 to 1 are wide enough to encompass the entire range of human emotions. Put differently, no emotion needs to be forever banished for humans to fourish. Just as affective scientists agree that positive and negative emotions should not be given equal airtime in a 1-to-1 ratio, they also agree that negative emotions are vital to optimal human functioning. What this means for the future of positive psychology is that negative emotions become the new frontier. Whether and how negative emotions contribute to optimal functioning depends not only on how frequently they are experienced relative to positive emotions, but also on whether they are necessary or gratuitous in a given context. We need better assessment tools for distinguishing necessary negativity from gratuitous negativity. One guiding principle is that necessary negativity is appropriate to the current circumstances in both content and scope, whereas gratuitous negativity is disproportionate, often overblown or inappropriately seeping into and dominating future circumstances (Fredrickson, 2009), perhaps refecting what Gottman (1994) called an absorbing state. A new frontier for scientists working in positive psychology will be to discover when and how people’s strategies for acknowledging and expressing their negative emotions contribute positively to well-being and when they detract from it (e.g., Graham, Huang, Clark, & Helgeson, 2008) [End quote]

◘ 2013 Fredrickson (2013, p. 3) continues to emphasize her high scientific standards: [Begin quote] I have had the good fortune to work on the leading edge of the new and amply rigorous science of positive emotions. I have sought to create an evidence-based understanding of light-hearted moments, charting their variety, the ways they change how the human mind works, and how, little-by-little, they change people's lives. [End quote]

◘ In 2013 Fredrickson published an article seeking [Begin quote] To identify molecular mechanisms underlying the prospective health advantages associated with psychological well-being, we analyzed leukocyte basal gene expression profiles in 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounded negative psychological and behavioral factors. Hedonic and eudaimonic well-being showed similar affective correlates but highly divergent transcriptome profiles. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from people with high levels of hedonic well-being showed up-regulated expression of a stress-related conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) involving increased expression of proinflammatory genes and decreased expression of genes involved in antibody synthesis and type I IFN response. In contrast, high levels of eudaimonic well-being were associated with CTRA down-regulation. Promoter-based bioinformatics implicated distinct patterns of transcription factor activity in structuring the observed differences in gene expression associated with eudaimonic well-being (reduced NF-κB and AP-1 signaling and increased IRF and STAT signaling). Transcript origin analysis identified monocytes, plasmacytoid dendritic cells, and B lymphocytes as primary cellular mediators of these dynamics. The finding that hedonic and eudaimonic well-being engage distinct gene regulatory programs despite their similar effects on total well-being and depressive symptoms implies that the human genome may be more sensitive to qualitative variations in well-being than are our conscious affective experiences [End quote] (p. 13684).

◘ Fredrickson references Keller to support this quote: [Begin quote] In the present study, we examined the biological implications of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome—a system of ~21,000 genes that has evolved fundamentally to help humans survive and thrive (i.e., be well) [End quote] (p. 13684).

◘ I reviewed the Keller article and could not see support of this. Keller says: [Begin quote] In addition to providing information required for building and maintaining an organism, the genome also provides a vast amount of information for adapting and responding to—for interacting with—the environment in which it finds itself—as indeed it must if the organism is to develop more or less normally, and to survive more or less adequately. Rather than a set of genes initiating causal chains leading to the formation of traits, I suggest that the genome that now appears before us is first and foremost an exquisitely sensitive reaction (or response) mechanism—a device for regulating the production of specific proteins in response to the constantly changing signals it receives from its environment. The signals that the genome detects come most immediately from its intra-cellular environment, but these reflect, in turn, input from the external environments both of the cell and of the organism … Genomes are responsive, but far from infinitely so; the range of possible responses is severely constrained, both by the organizational dynamics of the system in which they are embedded and by their own structure [End quote] (Keller, 2012, pp. 138-139).

◘ Compton and Hoffman (2020, p. 97) provided a perspective on the article: [Begin quote] One highly provocative study compared the impact of hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being on gene expression. In this case, the study examined genes involved in antiviral and inflammation associated with stress. Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues (2013) found that people with high levels of eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene expression in their immune cells. Surprisingly to the researchers, people with high levels of hedonic well-being showed less favorable, or even adverse, gene expression in their immune cells. The results became even more important for interventions when the researchers found that both eudaimonic and hedonic groups reported similar levels of positive emotions. That is, both groups reported they felt 'positive,' but their genomes were reacting differently. Clearly, more research is needed to follow up on this provocative study. [End quote]

□ 2016 It's disappointing to see introductory textbooks in positive psychology referring to this ratio without noting any controversy associated with it (e.g., Gregory & Rutledge, 2016).

□ 2019 Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Fredrickson has tempered her proclivity to making extraordinary claims. In her most recent study, (Le Nguyen et al., 2019) she makes the extraordinary claim that a 12 week program of “Loving-kindness meditation” will slow the biological aging process as indicated by a shortening of telomere length (TL). The authors seem to second guess their own results: “Therefore, one should interpret the differences in TL changes here with caution, treating them as evidence for 'apparent' rather than true alterations in TL” (Le Nguyen et al., 2019, p. 26). Friedman, MacDonald, Brown, & Coyne, (2019) challenged the article, saying, “We simply conclude that this paper's extraordinary claim does not have the compelling evidence to back it up, and we urge not making extraordinary claims without such evidence.” 


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.5 References pertinent to the Fredrickson debacle.

□ Algoe, S. B., Fredrickson, B. L., & Chow, S. M. (2011). The future of emotions research within positive psychology. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 115-132). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373585.003.0008

□ Anthony, A. (2014, January 18). The British amateur who debunked the mathematics of happiness. The Observer. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jan/19/mathematics-of-happiness-debunked-nick-brown#:~:text=The%20British%20amateur%20who%20debunked%20the%20mathematics%20of%20happiness,-Andrew%20Anthony&text=Nick%20Brown%20does%20not,a%20mid%2Dperiod%20John%20Cleese.

□ Bartlett, Tom (5 August 2013). “The Magic Ratio That Wasn't". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/the-magic-ratio-that-wasnt/33279 The 2009 book Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life, by Barbara Fredrickson, was praised by the heavyweights of psychology. Daniel Gilbert said it provided a “scientifically sound prescription for joy.” Daniel Goleman extolled its “surefire methods for transforming our lives.” Martin E. P. Seligman, often called the father of positive psychology, raved that “this book, like Barb, is the ‘real thing.’” But the top-notchness of the research that underpins the book has been called into serious question. Even Fredrickson, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has now backed away from the ratio in the book’s subtitle, saying she didn’t really understand the mathematics behind it and had relied instead on the fact that it had been peer-reviewed.

□ Boyatzis, R. E., Rochford, K., & Taylor, S. N. (2015). The role of the positive emotional attractor in vision and shared vision: Toward effective leadership, relationships, and engagement. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 670. https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00670

□ Brown, N. J. L., MacDonald, D. A., Samanta, M. P., Friedman, H. L., & Coyne, J. C. (2014). A critical reanalysis of the relationship between genomics and well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(35), 12705-12709. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1407057111

□ Brown, N. J. L., Sokal, A. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2013). The complex dynamics of wishful thinking: The critical positivity ratio. American Psychologist, 68, 801–813. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0032850 We examine critically the claims made by Fredrickson and Losada (2005) concerning the construct known as the “positivity ratio.” We find no theoretical or empirical justification for the use of differential equations drawn from fluid dynamics, a subfield of physics, to describe changes in human emotions over time; furthermore, we demonstrate that the purported application of these equations contains numerous fundamental conceptual and mathematical errors. The lack of relevance of these equations and their incorrect application lead us to conclude that Fredrickson and Losada’s claim to have demonstrated the existence of a critical minimum positivity ratio of 2.9013 is entirely unfounded. More generally, we urge future researchers to exercise caution in the use of advanced mathematical tools, such as nonlinear dynamics, and in particular to verify that the elementary conditions for their valid application have been met.

□ Brown, N. J. L., Sokal, A. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2014a). The persistence of wishful thinking. American Psychologist, 69, 629–632. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037050

□ Brown, N. J. L., Sokal, A. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2014b). Positive psychology and romantic scientism. American Psychologist, 69, 636–637. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037390

□ Cole, S. W., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2014). Errors in the Brown et al. critical reanalysis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(35), E3581-E3581. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1413316111

□ Diehl, M., Hay, E. L., & Berg, K. M. (2011). The ratio between positive and negative affect and flourishing mental health across adulthood. Aging & Mental Health, 15(7), 882-893.  “Despite the limitations and questions that remain, data from this 30-day diary study showed that the positivity ratio differed across adulthood, such that age was associated with an increasing preponderance of positive to negative affect. Furthermore, the positivity ratio was clearly associated with adults' mental health status, such that higher ratios of positive-to-negative affect were predictive of more positive mental health. Finally, our data support the conclusion that although the ratio of 2.9 may be a critical value in young adulthood, this value is not as discriminating of mental health status among middle-aged and older adults (p. 891).

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York, NY: Crown. We all know negativity; it looms large and is easy to spot. Negativity pervades your self-talk and your judgments. It bleeds into exchanges with your kids and your colleagues, eroding goodwill. Making matters worse, negativity breeds health-damaging emotions—like anger, contempt, and depression—which seep into your entire body. You can feel the simmering bitterness eating away at your stomach, raising your blood pressure, and turning your shoulder and neck muscles to stone. For more than twenty years. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has researched these questions. What she discovered and teaches has made her a luminary in psychology and beyond. Now, in Positivity, she shares how experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one's own unique wellsprings of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future. In Positivity, Dr. Fredrickson reveals how the stunning new scientific discoveries about this powerful—though undervalued—state of mind can enhance your relationships, improve your health, relieve depression, and broaden your mind. Experience positivity for yourself and make a lasting difference in the way you live.

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Updated thinking on positivity ratios. American Psychologist, 68, 814–822. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0033584

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2013 August 30). Recalculating a Positivity Ratio, and Finding a Metaphor. Letter. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters/recalculating-a-positivity-ratio-and-finding-a-metaphor/

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2019). World renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson gives you the lab-tested tools necessary to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life. She discovered that experiencing positive emotions broadens people's minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine. With Positivity, you’ll learn to see new possibilities, bounce back from setbacks, connect with others, and become the best version of yourself. What's your ratio? 80% of Americans fall short of the 3-to-1 positivity ratio that predicts flourishing. Click here to take Barb's 2-minute on-line quiz and see how you score. Retrieved from https://www.positivityratio.com/index.php

□ Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M. G., … Cole, S. W. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(33), 13684-13689. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1305419110

□ Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678–686. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678

□ Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2013). Correction to Fredrickson and Losada (2005). American Psychologist, 68, 822. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034435

□ Friedman, H. L. (2008). Humanistic and positive psychology: The methodological and epistemological divide. Th e Humanistic Psychologist, 36, 113–126. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08873260802111036

□ Friedman, H. L. (2015b). The need for a more nuanced conclusion than life is pretty meaningful. American Psychologist, 70, 570–571. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039189

□ Friedman, H. L., & Brown, N. J. L. (2018). Implications of debunking the “critical positivity ratio” for humanistic psychology: Introduction to special issue. [Special issue]. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 239–261. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167818762227

□ Friedman, H. L., MacDonald, D. A., Brown, N. J. L., & Coyne, J. C. (2019). Extraordinary claims require compelling evidence: Concerns about “loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, (July), 104410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104410

□ Friedman, H. L., & Robbins, B. D. (2012). The negative shadow cast by positive psychology: Contrasting views and implications of humanistic and positive psychology on resiliency. The Humanistic Psychologist, 40, 87–102. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08873267.2012.643720

□ Gregory, E. M., & Rutledge, P. B. (2016). Exploring positive psychology: The science of happiness and well-being. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

□ Guastello, S. J. (2014). Nonlinear dynamical models in psychology are widespread and testable. American Psychologist, 69, 628-629. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036980

□ Hämäläinen, R. P., Luoma, J., & Saarinen, E. (2014). Mathematical modeling is more than fitting equations. American Psychologist, 69, 633-634. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037048

□ Held, B. S. (2018). Positive psychology’s a priori problem. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 313–342. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817739409 “The positive psychology movement, in self-proclaimed distinction to all prior positive mentality movements, famously claims to have founded itself on the rock of science. Of its many scientific findings, none has been trumpeted more loudly than Barbara Fredrickson’s now (in)famous “positivity ratio,” in which 2.9 positive emotions to each negative emotion (which, following Fredrickson, 2009, I will call the 3:1 ratio) constitutes the “tipping point” that allegedly predicts flourishing over languishing and so is said to validate Fredrickson’s “broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions” (Fredrickson, 2009, 2013; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005). The recent debate between Fredrickson (2013) and Brown, Sokal, and Friedman (2013, 2014), who convincingly challenged Fredrickson and Losada’s (2005, 2013) “non-linear dynamics model” of positive emotions on methodological grounds, has for positive psychologists tarnished neither the luster of their positivity-ratio pearl nor the motivating positive/negative dichotomy at its core. Although some may counter that conceptions of the positive/negative dichotomy are evolving within the movement—the hedonic concept “happiness” has been eclipsed by the eudaimonic concept “flourishing” (Fredrickson, 2009; Seligman, 2011)—positive psychologists’ conception of flourishing depends logically on positivity and negativity as conceived from the movement’s start (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Seligman, 2002). And so the positive/negative dichotomy constitutes positive psychology’s movement-defining conceptual foundation” (p. 2).

□ Keller, E. F. (2011). Genes, Genomes, and Genomics. Biological Theory, 6(2), 132-140. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-012-0014-x

□ Lefebvre, V. A., & Schwartz, R. M. (2014). An empirical ratio in search of a theory. American Psychologist, 69, 634-635. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036949 (Correction published 2014, American Psychologist, 69, p. 935. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038276)

□ Le Nguyen, K. D., Lin, J., Algoe, S. B., Brantley, M. M., Kim, S. L., Brantley, J., … Fredrickson, B. L. (2019). Loving-kindness meditation slows biological aging in novices: Evidence from a 12-week randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 108(May), 20-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.05.020

□ Lewis, S. (2015). Bringing positive psychology to organizational psychology. In S. Joseph (Ed.), Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education, and everyday life (2nd ed., pp. 329–340). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

□ Losada, M. (2014, December 1). For the record: A historical account of my work with teams. Retrieved from https://media.wix.com/ugd/0d66e3_b0c740cbcc9d4255a8478fef36b0695f.pdf

□ Musau, A. (2014). The place of mathematical models in psychology and the social sciences. American Psychologist, 69, 632-633. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037068

□ Nickerson, C. A. (2014). No empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios. American Psychologist, 69(6), 626–628. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036961

□ Nickerson, C. A. (2018). There is no empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios: Comment on Fredrickson (2013). Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 284–312. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817740468

□  Orkibi, H., Hamama, L., Gavriel-Fried, B., & Ronen, T. (2018). Pathways to adolescents’ flourishing: Linking self-control skills and positivity ratio through social support. Youth and Society, 50(1), 3–25. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X15581171

□ Pincus, D., Kiefer, A. W., & Beyer, J. I. (2018). Nonlinear dynamical systems and humanistic psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 343–366. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817741784 In 2005, Fredrickson and Losada published an article in the journal American Psychologist, claiming to have found a critical 2.9 to 1 positivity to negativity ratio that could potentially serve as a threshold to explain human flourishing in general, across domains ranging from small group dynamics to mental health and resilience. In the years that followed, this compelling and highly marketable result became a key selling point among the leaders of the “new” science of positivity, helping to distinguish “positive psychology” from humanistic psychology, which predates the former by about 50 years (Rogers, 1951, 1957). This mathematically precise positivity threshold served as a shiny marketing tool, as its origins were clouded over by the exotic and technical realm of nonlinear differential equations. In nearly every respect, this result was ideal: mathematically grounded, empirical, extremely precise, and useful in nearly any human context.

□ Rich, G. J. (2018). Positive psychology and humanistic psychology: Evil twins, sibling rivals, distant cousins, or something else? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 262–283. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817698820

□ Robbins, B. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2018). The unavoidable role of values in positive psychology: Reflections in light of psychology's replicability crisis. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), Routledge international handbooks. The Routledge international handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 15-25). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

□ Shrira, A., Bodner, E., & Palgi, Y. (2016). Positivity ratio of flourishing individuals: Examining the moderation effects of methodological variations and chronological age. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 109–123. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1037857

□ Terni, P. (2015). Solution-focus: Bringing positive psychology into the conversation. International Journal of Solution-Focused Practices, 3, 8–16. https://dx.doi.org/10.14335/ijsfp.v3i1.25


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.6 Positive psychology in education.

□  Seligman's original rationale: “We conclude that, were it possible, well-being should be taught in school on three grounds: as an antidote to depression, as a vehicle for increasing life satisfaction, and as an aid to better learning and more creative thinking. Because most young people attend school, schools provide the opportunity to reach them and enhance their well-being on a wide scale” (Seligman et al., 2009, p. 295).

□  “Positive education is an umbrella term used to describe empirically validated and scientifically informed interventions and programs from positive psychology that have an impact on student well-being. Public interest in well-being, and more specifically, the applications of positive psychology to education, has grown in recent years” (White & Murray, 2015b, p. xiii).

□  “What we mean is that we are teaching programs that have been shown to have scientific basis to improve the level of student well-being. What we are doing when we teach these skills is to buffer students before they need them. Positive psychologists argue that systems and approaches to mental health have been deeply rooted in the traditional view of human psychology-a disease or pathology model that focuses on what is wrong with the human condition” (White & Murray, 2015a, p. 14).

□  “We firmly believe that positive education is education for both traditional skills and character development.…We argue a key to unlock the potential of positive institutions lies at the intersection of the whole school leadership, strategy, and empirical lessons from positive psychology. This is explicitly linked to enriching the whole school staff's wellbeing first, and then student well-being, with the expectation to build whole community systems focusing on optimal human functioning (Roffey 2012, pp. 8-10). We assert that positive institutions must not lose sight of Aristotle's ancient wisdom that the development of individual and collective moral character education takes place within an institution as systems model examples of human character and that starts with the teachers acquiring well-being skills for themselves first” (White & Murray, 2015a, pp. 15-16).

□  “White and Kern, (2018, p. 10): “Positive education is further challenged by over-reaching claims, which can be criticized as simply rebranding education to gain a competitive edge (Hutchinson, 2017; Kenway, 2013). When positive education is proposed to solve a myriad of challenges within education itself, including illiteracy, disengagement, and even mental illness, then the program is bound for failure. Too often, the ideas and interventions of positive psychology sound as if they can be replicated immediately in other settings. Wellbeing takes place within schools, classrooms, staff rooms, and within parent bodies, which are all impacted by specific cultural settings. Based on our experience and understanding of both research and education, we suggest that if these different perspectives and stakeholders are ignored, then the introduction of wellbeing will be just another 'fad,' or a slick marketing campaign for a school to adopt to reinvent itself, which will fail to stick amidst the reality of the pressures and challenges within a school."


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.7 References pertinent to positive psychology in education.

□ Armstrong, L. L., Desson, S., St. John, E., & Watt, E. (2018). The D.R.E.A.M. program: Developing resilience through emotions, attitudes, and meaning (gifted edition) – A second wave positive psychology approach. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 00(00), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2018.1559798

□ Bradley, C., Cordaro, D. T., Zhu, F., Vildostegui, M., Han, R. J., Brackett, M., & Jones, J. (2018). Supporting improvements in classroom climate for students and teachers with the four pillars of wellbeing curriculum. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 4(3), 245–264. https://doi.org/10.1037/tps0000162

□ Chafouleas, S. M., & Bray, M. A. (2004). Introducing positive psychology: Finding a place within school psychology. Psychology in the Schools, 41(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.10133

□ Deb, S. (Ed.). (2018). Positive schooling and child development: International perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

□ Halliday, A. J., Kern, M. L., Garrett, D. K., & Turnbull, D. A. (2019). understanding factors affecting positive education in practice: An Australian case study. Contemporary School Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-019-00229-0

□ Han, H. (2019). The VIA inventory of strengths, positive youth development, and moral education. Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(1), 32–40. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1528378

□ Kennette, L., & Myatt, B. (2018). How the post-secondary classroom can benefit from positive psychology principles. Psychology Teaching Review, 24(1), 63–66.

□ Kristjansson, K. (2013). Ten myths about character, virtue and virtue education — Plus three well-founded misgivings. British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(3), 269-287. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2013.778386

□ Lombas, A. S., Jiménez, T. I., Arguís-Rey, R., Hernández-Paniello, S., Valdivia-Salas, S., & Martín-Albo, J. (2019). Impact of the happy classrooms programme on psychological well-being, school aggression, and classroom climate. Mindfulness, 1642–1660. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01132-8

□ Morrish, L., Rickard, N., Chin, T. C., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2018). Emotion regulation in adolescent well-being and positive education. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(5), 1543–1564. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9881-y

□ Niki De Bondt; Sven De Maeyer; Vincent Donche; Peter Van Petegem. (2019). A rationale for including overexcitability in talent research beyond the FFM-personality dimensions. High Ability Studies, 00(00), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/13598139.2019.1668753

□ Pluskota, A. (2014). The application of positive psychology in the practice of education. SpringerPlus, 3(1), 147. https://doi.org/10.1186/2193-1801-3-147

□ Pollet, E., & Schnell, T. (2017). Brilliant: But what for? Meaning and subjective well-being in the lives of intellectually gifted and academically high-achieving adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(5), 1459–1484. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9783-4

□ Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., & Tandler, N. (2017). Strength-based interventions. Gifted Education International, 33(2), 118–130. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261429416640334

□ Seligman, M. E. P., & Adler, A. (2018). Positive education. In The Global Happiness Council (Ed.), Global Happiness Policy Report 2018 (pp. 53–73). New York, NY: Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323399593_Positive_Education_Seligman_M_E_P_Adler_A_2018_Positive_Education_In_J_F_Helliwell_R_Layard_J_Sachs_Eds_Global_Happiness_Policy_Report_2018_Pp_52_-_73_Global_Happiness_Council

□ Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293–311. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054980902934563

□ Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., & Singh, N. N. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of positive psychology in intellectual and developmental disabilities: Translating research into practice. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

□ Terjesen, M. D., Jacofsky, M., Froh, J., & DiGiuseppe, R. (2004). Integrating positive psychology into schools: Implications for practice. Psychology in the Schools, 41(1), 163–172. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.10148

□ Titova, L., Werner, K. M., & Sheldon, K. M. (2018). Translating positive psychology. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 4(3), 211–214. https://doi.org/10.1037/tps0000170

□ Trask-Kerr, K., Chin, T.-C., & Vella-Brodrick, D. (2019). Positive education and the new prosperity: Exploring young people’s conceptions of prosperity and success. Australian Journal of Education, 000494411986060. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004944119860600

□ Trask-Kerr, K., Quay, J., & Slemp, G. R. (2019). A Deweyan positive education: Psychology with philosophy. Oxford Review of Education, 00(00), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2019.1625761

□ Vannest, K. J., Ura, S. K., Lavadia, C., & Zolkoski, S. (2019). Self-report measures of resilience in children and youth. Contemporary School Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-019-00252-1

□ Waters, L. (2011). A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 28(2), 75–90. https://doi.org/10.1375/aedp.28.2.75

□ White, M. A., & Kern, M. L. (2018). Positive education: Learning and teaching for wellbeing and academic mastery. International Journal of Wellbeing, 8(1), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v8i1.588

□ White, M. A., & Murray, A. S. (2015a). Building a positive institution. In M. A. White & A. S. Murray, (Eds.), Evidence-based approaches in positive education (pp. 1-26). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9667-5_1

□ White, M. A., & Murray, A. S. (Eds.). (2015b). Evidence-based approaches in positive education: Implementing a strategic framework for well-being in schools. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

□ Williams, Noël; Horrell, Leah; Edmiston, Dawn; and Brady, Mackenzie (2018) The impact of positive psychology on higher education, The William & Mary Educational Review, 5(1), Article 12. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wm.edu/wmer/vol5/iss1/12


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.8 PP 2.0 or 'second wave' PP (SWPP): The second wave of positive psychology.

□ From the very beginning there were concerns raised about the exclusive focus on positive aspects of human functioning. This focus was emphasized over and over, for example, “The science of positive psychology, as we see it, has three constituent parts: the study of positive subjective experience, the study of positive individual traits, and the study of institutions that enable the first two (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). In this chapter we shall discuss the possible changes that a science of positive psychology, if successful in becoming a discrete approach within the social sciences, would likely wreak on the field of clinical psychology” (Seligman & Peterson, 2003, p. 305). The authors continued, on the next page, to say: “Because of its explicit focus on the positive, we now think that positive psychology provides one of the best ways to help people in trouble. It should have been obvious all along that persons who are impoverished, depressed, or suicidal care about much more than the relief of their suffering. These persons care-sometimes desperately-about strength and virtue, about authenticity, about purpose, and about integrity. Furthermore, the relief of suffering very often depends on the fostering of happiness and the building of character. Positive emotion undoes negative emotion.”

□ In 2004, Held (p. 40) introduced a "second wave" looking at a positive psychology able to include: “the open acknowledgement and appreciation of the negative side of human existence/nature, a side that has heretofore been denied or dismissed by promoters of the movement’s dominant Message [positivity]. In this we have the inclusive, integrative, dialectical approach many psychologists have advocated since William James. And so this newer message gives me hope, including the hope that positive psychology will eventually acknowledge its debt to humanistic psychology (among other traditions) without equivocation, just as some positive psychologists now advocate the incorporation of negative human emotion and thought in the movement’s science.
But if our field must remain divided along positive and negative lines, I prefer (apropos of James) to cast my lot with the negative psychologists. After all, Shakespeare’s tragedies are no lesser plays than are his comedies, and his nuanced understanding of human nature, with all its seeming contradiction, has hardly gone uncredited. Making lemonade out of life’s many lemons is certainly one way to make life meaningful, but it is surely not the only way.” 

□ Wong, (2011b, p. 69) introduced "PP 2.0," “characterised by a balanced, interactive, meaning-centered, and cross-cultural perspective.” Wong went on:  “In order to fully understand the complexity of life in its totality, it is more promising to study the paradoxical and interactive effects of positives and negatives in the next stage of development of PP. This is essentially a concept paper for PP 2.0 which complements Seligman's (1998b) original concept paper and represents part of the ongoing evolution of PP” (p. 70).

□ Wong's approach called for a revised definition of positive psychology: “PP may be defined as the scientific study of virtue, meaning, resilience, and well-being, as well as evidence-based applications to improve the life of individuals and society in the totality of life” (2011b, p. 72).
Wong concluded this article by saying: “PP is in flux. Given the dynamic changes in the field, PP today is already very different from what was originally proposed by Seligman. I emphasize that PP needs to synthesize the positive and negative, take a clear stance on the imperative of virtues, integrate across levels of analysis, and build constituency with all branches of mainstream psychology around the globe. I also shift the focus away from individual happiness and success to a meaning-centered approach to making life better for all people” (Wong, 2011b, p. 77).

□ Wong subsequently followed up: (Wong, 2011c; 2017; 2019a; 2019b; in press; Wong & Roy, 2018).

□ Meanwhile, 'second wave' positive psychology (SWPP) was followed-up: (Flora, 2019; Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, and Worth, 2016; Lomas, 2016a, 2016b; Lomas & Ivtzan 2016).

□ “The present book explores a variety of topics that could be considered as part of the 'dark side' of life and emphasises the role they play in the positive aspects of our functioning and transformations as human beings. While doing this, cutting-edge theories, research, and practices are also introduced. The 'dark side' refers to challenging experiences, thoughts, emotions and behaviours which trigger discomfort in us. Such discomfort is frequently avoided as it carries an engagement with fear, pain, distress or confusion. However, engaging with the challenge and discomfort has great potential for growth, healing, insight and transformation. In other words, the 'dark side' contains the seed for a potential positive outcome, even when the path towards this outcome is testing” (Ivtzan et al., 2016, p. 1).


⚀ 2019 A.2.2.9 References pertinent to positive psychology in general, including PP 2.0, 2012—2019.

□ Armstrong, L. L., Desson, S., St. John, E., & Watt, E. (2018). The D.R.E.A.M. program: Developing resilience through emotions, attitudes, and meaning (gifted edition) – a second wave positive psychology approach. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 00(00), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2018.1559798

□ Barnes, C., & Mongrain, M. (2019). A three-factor model of personality predicts changes in depression and subjective well-being following positive psychology interventions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 00(00), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1651891

□ Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Aaker, J. L., & Garbinsky, E. N. (2013). Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 505–516. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.830764

□ Berrios, R., Totterdell, P., & Kellett, S. (2017). When feeling mixed can be meaningful: The relation between mixed emotions and eudaimonic well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, (January), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9849-y

□ Blatny, M. (Ed.). (2015). Personality and well-being across the life-span. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

□ Brown, N. J. L. (2018). An introduction to criticality for students of positive psychology. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 173–192). London, England: Routledge.

□ Brown, N. J. L. (2018). Criticism of positive psychology. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 11– 13). London, England: Routledge.

□ Brown, N. J. L., & Rohrer, J. M. (2019). “Easy as (happiness) pie? A critical evaluation of a popular model of the determinants of well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, (0123456789). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00128-4 An underlying principle behind much of the research in positive psychology is that individuals have considerable leeway to increase their levels of happiness. In an influential article that is frequently cited in support of such claims, Lyubomirsky et al. (R ev Gen Psychol 9:111–131, 2005. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111) put forward a model (subsequently popularized under the name of the 'happiness pie') in which approximately 50% of individual differences in happiness are due to genetic factors and 10% to life circumstances, leaving 40% available to be changed via volitional activities. We re-examined Lyubomirsky et al.’s claims and found several apparent deficiencies in their chain of arguments on both the empirical and the conceptual level. We conclude that there is little empirical evidence for the variance decomposition suggested by the 'happiness pie,' and that even if it were valid, it is not necessarily informative with respect to the question of whether individuals can truly exert substantial influence over their own chronic happiness level. We believe that our critical re-examination of Lyubomirsky et al.’s seminal article offers insights into some common misconceptions and pitfalls of scientific inference, and we hope that it might contribute to the construction of a more rigorous and solid empirical basis for the field of positive psychology” (p. 1).

□ Brown, N. J. L., Lomas, T., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2018). Introduction. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 1–2). London, England: Routledge.

□ Brown, N. J. L., Lomas, T., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology. Routledge.

□ Bulley, A. (2018). The history and future of human prospection. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, 2(1), 75-93. https://doi.org/10.26613/esic.2.1.75

□ Cabanas, E. (2018). Positive psychology and the legitimation of individualism. Theory and Psychology, 28(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354317747988

□ Carr, A. (2020). Positive psychology and you: A self-development guide. London, England: Routledge.

□ Chaves, C., Lopez-Gomez, I., Hervas, G., & Vazquez, C. (2017). A comparative study on the efficacy of a positive psychology intervention and a cognitive behavioral therapy for clinical depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 41(3), 417-433. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-016-9778-9

□ Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: Positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361–368. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015952

□ Compton, W. C. & Hoffman, E. (2020). Positive psychology: The science of happiness and flourishing. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. “One of the most distinguishing features of positive psychology is an insistence that research must follow the standards of traditional scientific investigations (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Positive psychology is certainly not the first attempt by psychologists to study well-being and the good life. From the inception of the field, there has been an interest in studying healthy personality development and optimal states of well-being. For example, in the early part of the 20th century many investigations into psychological well-being and the nature of the good life began first as scholarly analyses or as in-depth case studies of clients in psychotherapy. Attempts were then made to move the results of those studies into psychological laboratories for further experimental research or into real-life situations to help people increase well-being. Unfortunately, many of these efforts proved extremely difficult or even impossible. In light of such difficulties from the past, positive psychologists have seen need to reverse the direction of information flow. That is, many positive psychologists hope to build an experimental knowledge base in the psychological laboratory and then move those results out into real-world venues such as schools, clinics, and the workplace. Toward this end, many of the founders of positive psychology have placed considerable emphasis on promoting and developing opportunities for experimental research on psychological well-being and the potential for greater fulfillment in life” (p. 11).  … “The differences between humanistic psychology and positive psychology can be found in the focus of investigations and the greater emphasis on traditional empirical research in the latter school. Much of the emphasis in humanistic psychology—particularly early humanistic psychology—was on theories of optimal personality development such as self-actualization. Although positive psychology also investigates the potential for greater psychological development, it has tended to place greater emphasis on the well-being and satisfaction of the "average" person on the street (see the Sheldon & King quote earlier).1 Further, in terms of empirical research, positive psychologists focus more on the benefits of happiness and positive emotions such as gratitude (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). Of course, over the years, many humanistic psychologists have been actively involved in empirical research (e.g., Bohart & Greenberg, 2001; Cain & Seeman, 2001). However, humanistic psychologists tend to be more comfortable with types of research studies not based on statistical analyses, such as individual case studies or introspective phenomenological analyses. As positive psychology evolves, however, new research methods have been introduced and new topics explored. Today the differences between positive psychology and humanistic psychology are diminishing. What differences remain tend to be about philosophical assumptions rather than competing approaches to science” (p. 23).

□ Conoley, C. W., Pontrelli, M. E., Oromendia, M. F., Carmen Bello, B. Del, & Nagata, C. M. (2015). Positive Empathy: A therapeutic skill inspired by positive psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71(6), 575-583. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22175

□ Csikszentmihalyi, M., Nakamura, J. (2011). Positive psychology: Where did it come from, where is it going? In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger, (Eds.). Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. (pp. 2–9). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. “This is what resulted in Akumal I, [Akumal is a coastal resort on the Yucatán Peninsula] a delightful and stimulating meeting conducted mostly in swimsuits and flip-flops in a trio of adjacent villas, one of which originally belonged to the Grateful Dead. Besides the 18 who were invited, we also had with us Dr. and Mrs. Don Clifton and Dr. and Mrs. Ray Fowler. Don Clifton was the CEO of Gallup and had developed an approach to management based on developing one’s strengths rather than fixing one’s weaknesses. Ray Fowler was the supremely qualified CEO of the American Psychological Association. … The style of meetings was itself an attempt to break the mold of the typical psychology meetings: alternating informal but intense conversations with walks on the beach and snorkeling; good local dishes in the evening followed by volunteers reading their favorite poetry; and discussing it in a circle around the living room” (p. 5).

□ David, S. A., Boniwell, I., & Ayers, A. C. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of happiness. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

□ Donaldson, S. I., Dollwet, M., & Rao, M. A. (2015). Happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning revisited: Examining the peer-reviewed literature linked to positive psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(3), 185-195. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.943801 “More than 1300 positive psychology articles have made it through peer-review processes since the American Psychologist special issue call in 2000 for rigorous positive psychology research. Over 750 of these studies used empirical data to test hypotheses and examine important research questions. The analyses in this paper clearly show that positive psychology is a growing and vibrant sub-area within the broader field of psychology, committed to using the same rigorous scientific methods as other sub-areas, in the pursuit of understanding well-being, excellence, and optimal human functioning” (p. 193).

□ Driver, M. (2011). Coaching positively: Lessons for coaches from positive psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

□ Edwards, M. E., & Van Tongeren, D. R. (2019). Meaning mediates the association between suffering and well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 00(00), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1651890

□ Efklides, A., & Moraitou, D., (Eds.). (2013). A positive psychology perspectives on quality of life. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

□ Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105-128). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

□ Fernández-Ríos, L., & Novo, M. (2012). Positive psychology: Zeigeist (or spirit of the times) or ignorance (or disinformation) of history? International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 12(2), 333-344. “students should know that Positive Psychology contains a great deal of common sense, many vague concepts, a lot of untrue and redundant information and an endless amount of ill-founded theoretical and practical assumptions and truisms” (p. 342).

□ Fisher, R. M. (1997). A guide to Wilberland: Some common misunderstandings of the critics of Ken Wilber and his work on transpersonal theory prior to 1995. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 37(4), 30–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/00221678970374005

□ Flora, K. (2019). Second wave of positive psychology: Beyond the dichotomy of positive and negative and the consequences in the practice of psychotherapy. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 00(00), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2019.1573165

□ Frawley, A. (2015). Happiness Research: A Review of Critiques. Sociology Compass, 9(1), 62-77. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12236

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2003). The value of positive emotions. American Scientist, 91, 330-335.

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367–1377. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2004.1512

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York, NY: Crown.

□ Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Positive emotions broaden and build. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-407236-7.00001-2

□ Fredrickson, B. L., & Cohn, M. A. (2008). Positive emotions. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 777-796). New York, NY, US: The Guilford Press.

□ Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2018). Reflections on positive emotions and upward spirals. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 194-199. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617692106 “We reflect on our 2002 article and the impact this research report has had both within and beyond psychological science. This article was both one of the first publications to provide empirical support for hypotheses based on the broaden and-build theory of positive emotions and a product of the genesis of positive psychology. We highlight empirical and theoretical advancements in the scientific understanding of upward spiral dynamics associated with positive emotions, with particular focus on the new upward spiral theory of lifestyle change. We conclude by encouraging deeper and more rigorous tests of the prospective and reciprocal relations associated with positive emotions. Such progress is needed to better inform translations and applications to improve people’s health and well-being” (p. 194).

□ Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013262

□ Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24(4), 237–258. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010796329158

□ Fossas, A. (2019). Psychological Maturity Predicts Different Forms of Happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(6), 1933-1952. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-0033-9

□ Garbarino, J. (2011). The positive psychology of personal transformation: Leveraging resilience for life change. New York, NY: Springer.

□ Ghielen, S. T. S., van Woerkom, M., & Christina Meyers, M. (2017). Promoting positive outcomes through strengths interventions: A literature review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(6), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1365164 “This literature review aimed to gain insight in the current state of research into strengths interventions by systematically reviewing 18 studies that investigated strengths interventions between 2011 and 2016” (p. 579).

□ Goertzen, J. R. (2008). On the possibility of unification: The reality and nature of the crisis in psychology. Theory & Psychology, 18(6), 829–852.

□ Goodall, K. (2015). Individual differences in the regulation of positive emotion: The role of attachment and self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 208-213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.10.033

□ Grinde, B. (2012). The biology of happiness. Dordrecht, New York, NY: Springer.

□ Greene, J. D., Morrison, I., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2016). Positive neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press.

□ Gregory, E. M., & Rutledge, P. B. (2016). Exploring positive psychology: The science of happiness and well-being. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. A typical introductory textbook. It presents Fredrickson's positivity ratio without noting any of the controversy surrounding it.

□ Greven, C. U., Buitelaar, J. K., & Salum, G. A. (2018). From positive psychology to psychopathology: The continuum of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(3), 203-212. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12786

□ Gruber, J., & Moskowitz, J. T. (Eds.). (2014). Positive emotion: Integrating the light sides and dark sides. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

□ Held, B. S. (2004). The negative side of positive psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 44, 9-46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167803259645

□ Held, B. S. (2016). Why clinical psychology should not go “positive” and/or “negative.” In The Wiley Handbook of Positive Clinical Psychology (pp. 31–45). Chichester, UK: Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118468197.ch3

□ Henshon, S. E. (2019). Reflections on the flow of life: An interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Roeper Review, 41(3), 153–155. https://doi.org/10.1080/02783193.2019.1622487

□ Hoffman, D. H. (2015). Report to the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association: Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture. Chicago, IL: Sidley Austin LLP. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2014) Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program. United States Senate: Declassified, 3 December. Available at: https://fas.org/irp/congress/2014_ rpt/ssci-rdi.pdf

□  Independent Review Report. (2015). American Psychological Association. Retrieved on October 5, 2016 from https://www.apa.org/independent-review/APA-FINAL-Report-7.2.15.pdf.

□ Ivtzan, I., & Lomas, T. (Eds.). (2016). Mindfulness in positive psychology: The science of meditation and wellbeing. New York, NY: Routledge.

□ Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P. (2016). Second wave positive psychology: Embracing the dark side of life. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge.

□ Johnson, J., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Integrating positive and clinical psychology: Viewing human functioning as continua from positive to negative can benefit clinical assessment, interventions and understandings of resilience. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 41(3), 335-349. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-015-9728-y

□ Kanazawa, S., & Li, N. P. (2015). Happiness in modern society: Why intelligence and ethnic composition matter. Journal of Research in Personality, 59, 111–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2015.06.004

□ Kern, M. L., Williams, P., Spong, C., Colla, R., Sharma, K., Downie, A., … Oades, L. G. (2019). Systems informed positive psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 00(00), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1639799

□ Keyes, C. L., & Simoes, E. J. (2012). To flourish or not: Positive mental health and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 102(11), 2164-2172. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300918

□ Khanna, P., & Singh, K. (2019). Do All Positive Psychology Exercises Work for Everyone? Replication of Seligman et al.’s (2005) Interventions among Adolescents. Psychological Studies, 64(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12646-019-00477-3

□ Koch, U. (2019). Preparing for the unthinkable? The prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder and the limits of positive psychology. Developments in Neuroethics and Bioethics. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.dnb.2019.04.008

□ Konnikova, M. (2015). Trying to cure depression but inspiring torture. New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/theory-psychology-justified-torture

□ Kristjánsson, K., & Kristjansson, K. (2012). Positive psychology and positive education: Old wine in new bottles? Educational Psychologist, 47(2), 86-105. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2011.610678

□ Kupperman, J. (2006). Six myths about the good life: Thinking about what has value. Indianapolis: Hackett.

□ Lamers, S. M. A., Westerhof, G. J., Kovács, V., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2012). Differential relationships in the association of the Big Five personality traits with positive mental health and psychopathology. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(5), 517-524. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2012.05.012

□ Leontiev, D. (2013). Positive psychology in search for meaning: An introduction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 457-458. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.830766

□ Lianov, L. S., Fredrickson, B. L., Barron, C., Krishnaswami, J., & Wallace, A. (2019). Positive psychology in lifestyle medicine and health care: Strategies for implementation. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, XX(X), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827619838992

□ Lomas, T. (2016a). The art of second wave positive psychology: Harnessing Zen aesthetics to explore the dialectics of flourishing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(2), 14–29. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v6i2.497

□ Lomas, T. (2016b). Flourishing as a dialectical balance: Emerging insights from second-wave positive psychology. Palgrave Communications, 2(1), 16018. https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2016.18

□ Lomas, T., & Ivtzan, I. (2015). Second wave positive psychology: Exploring the positive-negative dialectics of wellbeing. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(4), 1753-1768. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-015-9668-y

□ Lomas, T., Roache, A., Rashid, T., & Jarden, A. (2019). Developing ethical guidelines for positive psychology practice: An on-going, iterative, collaborative endeavour. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 00(00), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1651892

□ Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Positive psychologists on positive constructs. A merican Psychologist, 67(7), 574-574. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029957

□ Lyubomksky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111–131. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111

□ MacInnis, C. C., Busseri, M. A., Choma, B. L., & Hodson, G. (2013). The happy cyclist: Examining the association between generalized authoritarianism and subjective well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(7), 789–793. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2013.06.018

□ Magyar-Moe, J. L., Owens, R. L., & Scheel, M. J. (2015). Applications of positive psychology in counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 43(4), 494–507. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000015581001

□ Marecek, J., & Christopher, J. C. (2018). Is positive psychology an indigenous psychology? In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 84-98). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

□ Marks, D. F. (2018). American psychologists, the Central Intelligence Agency, and enhanced interrogation. Health Psychology Open, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102918796610

□ Martínez-Martí, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2017). Character strengths predict resilience over and above positive affect, self-efficacy, optimism, social support, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(2), 110-119. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1163403

□ Matarazzo, J. D. (2018). The American Psychological Association’s Hoffman report allegations of my association with the “CIA torture” program. Health Psychology Open, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102918798235

□ Mayer, J. (2008a). The dark side: The inside story of how the war on terror turned into a war on American ideals. New York: Doubleday.

□ Mayer J (2008b) Mayer on Seligman. The Atlantic, 17 July. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2008/07/mayer-on-seligman/214016/

□ McMahon, B. T., & Kim, J. H. (2016). Foreword to Special Topic Section on the Interface of Positive Psychology with Rehabilitation Research and Practice. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 26(1), 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-015-9621-2

□ McNulty, J. K., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). Beyond positive psychology? Toward a contextual view of psychological processes and well-being. American Psychologist, 67(2), 101-110. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024572

□ Medlock, G. (2012). The evolving ethic of authenticity: From humanistic to positive psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 40(1), 38-57. https://doi.org/10.1080/08873267.2012.643687

□ Miller, A. (2008). A Critique of Positive Psychology—or ‘The New Science of Happiness.’ Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3–4), 591–608. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00646.x

□ Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do positive psychology exercises work? A replication of Seligman et al. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4), n/a-n/a. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.21839

□ Moreno-Jiménez, B., & Aguirre-Camacho, A. (2018). Positive psychology Intellectual, scientific, or ideological movement? In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas, & F. J. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), Routledge international handbooks. The Routledge international handbook of critical positive psychology (pp. 117-132). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

□ Nickerson, C. A. (2014). No empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios. American Psychologist, 69(6), 626–628. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036961

□ Nickerson, C. A. (2018). There is no empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios: Comment on Fredrickson (2013). Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 284–312. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817740468

□ Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (Eds.). (2018). Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners. (2nd ed.). London, England: Routledge.

□ Parks, A. C., & Schueller, S. (Eds.). (2014). The Wiley Blackwell handbook of positive psychological interventions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

□ Pawelski, J. O. (2016). Defining the ‘positive’’ in positive psychology: Part I. A descriptive analysis.’ The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(4), 339-356. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1137627

□ Pawelski, J. O. (2016). Defining the ‘positive’’ in positive psychology: Part II. A normative analysis.’ The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(4), 357-365. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1137628

□ Pawelski, S. P., & Pawelski, J. O. (2018). Happy together: Using the science of positive psychology to build love that lasts. New York, NY: Penguin.

□ Peterson, C. (2013). Pursuing the good life: 100 reflections on positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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□ Peters, M. A., & Tesar, M. (2019). The snake oil charms of positive psychology. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 0(0), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131857.2019.1678428

□ Pimental, P. (2016). The brave new world of positive neuropsychology. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult, 24(2), 99. https://doi.org/10.1080/23279095.2016.1269489

□ Pimental, P. A., & Randolph, J. J. (2018). Introduction to the special section on positive neuropsychology. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult, 25(4), 285-286. https://doi.org/10.1080/23279095.2018.1458509

□ Power, M. (2016). Understanding happiness: A critical review of positive psychology. London, England: Routledge.

□ Proctor, C. (Ed.). (2017). Positive psychology interventions in practice. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

□ Proctor, C., Tweed, R., & Morris, D. (2016). The Rogerian fully functioning person: A positive psychology perspective. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 56(5), 503-529. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167815605936

□ Quackenbush, S. W., Lockwood, A. K., & Cyr, T. G. (2016). “And yet your duty is to hope”: The positive psychology of Jean-Paul Sartre. Theory & Psychology, 26(3), 360-376. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354316641521

□ Rich, G. J. (2017). The promise of qualitative inquiry for positive psychology: Diversifying methods. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(3), 220-231. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1225119

□ Rich, G. J. (2018). Positive psychology and humanistic psychology: Evil twins, sibling rivals, distant cousins, or something else? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 262-283. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817698820

□ Riva, G. (2012). Personal experience in positive psychology may offer a new focus for a growing discipline. The American Psychologist, 67(7), 574-575. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029955

□ Robbins, B. D. (2015). Building bridges between humanistic and positive psychology. In S. Joseph (Ed.), Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education, and everyday life (2nd ed., pp. 31–46). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

□ Ruini, C. (2017). Positive psychology in the clinical domains: Research and practice. Cham. Switzerland: Springer.

□ Rusk, R. D., & Waters, L. E. (2013). Tracing the size, reach, impact, and breadth of positive psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 207-221. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.777766

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (1999). Speech at Lincoln Summit [Transcript]. Closing address at the First Positive Psychology Summit held at the Gallup International Research and Education Center in Lincoln, NE, 9–12 September. Positive Psychology Centre Conference Archives, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/PP%20Summit%201999%20Seligman%20Speech.docx

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2000). Humane Leadership Project. Progress Report. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Humane%20Leadership%20Progress%20Report%202000.docx

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: The Free Press.

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2016, April, 25). ‘Learned Helplessness’ & Torture: An Exchange. New York review of books. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/04/21/learned-helplessness-torture-an-exchange/

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2018a). The Hoffman report, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the defense of the nation: A personal view. Health Psychology Open, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102918796192

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2018b). The hope circuit: A psychologists journey from helplessness to optimism. North Sydney, N.S.W.: Penguin Life.

□ Seligman, M. E. P. (2019). Positive psychology: A personal history. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15(1), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050718-095653

□ Seligman, M. E. P., & Peterson, C. (2003). Positive clinical psychology. In L. G. Aspinwall & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology (pp. 305-317). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10566-021

□ Seligman, M. E. P., Allen, A. R., Vie, L. L., Ho, T. E., Scheier, L. M., Cornum, R., & Lester, P. B. (2019). PTSD: Catastrophizing in combat as risk and protection. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 516–529. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702618813532

□ Seligman, M. E. P., Railton, P., Baumeister, R. F., & Sripada, C. (2013). Navigating into the future or driven by the past. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(2), 119–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691612474317

□ Seligman, M. E. P., Railton, P., Baumeister, R. F., & Sripada, C. (2017). Homo prospectus. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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□ Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., & Singh, N. N. (2017). Introduction to positive psychology. In Handbook of positive psychology in intellectual and developmental disabilities (pp. 3-11). Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-59066-0_1

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□ Simmons, J. (2013). Positive psychology as a scientific movement. The International Journal of Science in Society, 4(1), 43–50.

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□ Tavris, C. (2014). The negative side of positive psychology. Skeptic Magazine, 19(3), 8-9.

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□ Yakushko, O. (2018). Don’t worry, be happy: Erasing racism, sexism, and poverty in positive psychology. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 16(1), e1433. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppi.1433

□ Yakushko, O., & Blodgett, E. (2018). Negative Reflections About Positive Psychology: On constraining the field to a focus on happiness and personal achievement. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167818794551

□ Zoellner, L. A., & Feeny, N. C. (Eds.). (2014). Facilitating resilience and recovery following trauma. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

□ Zou, C., Plaks, J. E., & Peterson, J. B. (2019). Don’t get too excited: assessing individual differences in the down-regulation of positive emotions. Journal of Personality Assessment, 101(1), 73-83. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2017.1339711


⧈ 2012 A.2.1 Overview: 2012 and before.

Several early contributions to positive psychology were important including works by Jahoda (1958) and Maslow (1954). These early contributions were largely ignored in the recent [re–] introduction of positive psychology by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000). I have included Maslow's chapter 18 (Toward a Positive Psychology) and his appendix (Problems Generated by a Positive Approach to Psychology) from his 1954 book, Motivation and personality (See section C). I recommend that this is the first thing that should be read in a study of positive psychology. A number of scholars mention chapter 18 and state that Maslow was the first to use the term but no one I have seen has indicated the depth to which Maslow explores the concept nor does anyone refer to the important material on positive psychology in Maslow's appendix. I'm not sure how the American Psychologist could have published the article by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) without asking them to bolster their credit to Maslow and specifically to this material. In my opinion, at best, it is very  questionable scholarship and at worst, plagiarism. Again, in my opinion, these works by Maslow should be considered the primary sources on the topic of positive psychology. By not referencing them, Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi's (2000) article became, by default, the primary reference.

Seligman introduced positive psychology as "a movement" during his term as president of the APA in 1998. He and Csikszentmihalyi followed up in 2000 with a paper introducing a special issue of the American Psychologist, devoted to positive psychology. In this seminal article, the authors presented positive psychology as a corrective to what they described as the dominant approach of modern psychology: the disease model of human functioning. The authors described three levels of analysis including the subjective (about valued subjective experiences like well–being, contentment, hope, optimism, flow and happiness); the individual level (positive psychological traits like the capacity for love, vocation, courage, perseverance, forgiveness, spirituality, high talent and wisdom) and the group level (civic virtues and institutions that facilitate citizenship, responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance and work ethic). The authors were hostile to the earlier efforts of humanistic psychology and called for the use of rigorous scientific standards in examining the psychology of positive human functioning (although, much of Seligman's recent research has been done using questionnaires distributed and answered through the Internet).

Positive psychology has been extremely successful on a number of fronts including over 1000 publications, numerous special issues, numerous handbooks, etc. As well, hundreds of millions of dollars have been secured to support research. Seligman has promoted positive psychology in a number of areas including psychotherapy, youth development, occupational and workplace psychology,neuroscience, coaching, educational curricula, health, and a major initiative involving the American Army. Seligman sees his efforts trying to teach positive traits and resilience in the American Army as a critical testing ground, if successful, these programs will then be implemented "in the civilian population." Part of Seligman's agenda is that most of the traits associated with positive psychology can be taught in schools and delivered while teaching any subject matter by using "embedding techniques."

Psychological concerns with happiness did not originate with Seligman. Each decade seems to have its own emphasis in looking at happiness. Clearly, earlier work would have been insightful to consider in the formulation of current approaches. I have not attempted to review the literature, however, in my section on happiness are several representative early studies.

It appears that from its inception, positive psychology has been plagued by a number of inherent and significant problems. For example, Seligman has tried to make the case that positive psychology is value neutral, however the consensus appears to be that this is an inherently impossible claim. Likewise, positive psychology appears to be inherently an American based approach, defining the good life in terms of achieving happiness and, as Seligman has emphasized, becoming a productive member of the workforce.

Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi criticized popular psychology and the various "unscientific" applications and self–help movements that developed as spinoffs of humanistic psychology. Yet, many in the positive psychology community, including Seligman himself, have done the same thing, writing books geared towards a general audience and even creating an iPhone app for being happy.

There seems to be little consensus as to what constitutes positive psychology and literally dozens of concepts have been thrown into the mix, including:

Positive experiences, positive emotions and strengths of character are also paramount in this approach. Character strengths (positive traits reflected in thoughts feelings and behaviors) exist as individual differences and the tacit assumption is made that they can be taught. Examples include appreciation of beauty and excellence, bravery, citizenship, creativity, curiosity, fairness, forgiveness and mercy, gratitude, hope, humor, integrity, judgment, kindness, leadership, love, love of learning, modesty and humility, persistence, perspective, prudence, self–regulation, social intelligence, spirituality and zest.

Seligman has not been consistent, going from talking about "authentic happiness" as the gold standard in 2002/2009 to now rejecting this and instead looking at well–being. Instead of life satisfaction, he now considers flourishing as the ultimate goal.

One of the key assumptions of positive psychology is that positive and negative emotions fulfill different roles; negative emotions can be viewed as survival tools whereas positive emotions tend to be associated with growth and flourishing.

There appears to be a high level of naivety and a low–level of sophistication shown in many of the concepts. For example, Seligman says that he had to give up looking at the gold standard being happiness because it turned out that life satisfaction is reported by people depending upon how they feel at the moment they are asked the question. [comment: perhaps he should have read Jahoda (1958, pp. 7-8) who differentiated dispositions of personality from transitory behavior in situations: "one has the option of defining mental health in at least two ways: as a relatively constant and enduring function of the personality  …  ; or as a momentary function of personality and situation"]
This naivety may also be seen in the research efforts. For example, here is Seligman's happiness formula: "H = S + C + V where H is your enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control" (Seligman, 2002a, p. 45).
Likewise, Fredrickson and Losada (2005) suggested a simple formula where the ratio of three good thoughts to every negative thought that one experiences would constitute flourishing. The authors then slip into bafflegab when they apply chaotic analysis suggesting that a " Losada ratio" of "2.9 bifurcates the complex dynamics of flourishing from the limit cycle of languishing." (And note that a ratio above 2.9 is OK as long as you don't get too high, "the complex dynamics of flourishing first show signs of disintegration at a of positivity ratio of 11.6").
Or perhaps: "So Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose" (Seligman, 2002, p. xiv).

In my opinion, on the whole, the positive psychology movement has been implemented in a very chaotic and, I would argue, ultimately unproductive way. Differentiating positive psychology from negative has not been helpful, in fact, this distinction is artificial. I agree with the thrust of the recent article by McNulty and Fincham (2011): we do not need a positive psychology, what we need is a more thoughtful and more articulate approach to psychology, perhaps along the lines of a unified psychology as proposed by Sternberg and Grigorenko (2001).


Mind map of positive psychology (Smith, C., 2008)

Common acronyms encountered:

⧈ 2012 A.2.2 Various issues


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.1 Success of positive psychology

Popular press: "has been the darling of the popular press, making the cover of Time (Jan. 17, 2005), and featured in The Washington Post (2002), the London Sunday Times Magazine (2005), The New York, NY Times Magazine (2006), U.S. News & World Report (2009), and even a six–part BBC series (2006)" (Azar, 2011, p. 32).

Special issues: See the annotated bibliography

A dedicated journal: the Journal of Positive Psychology, founded in 2006

Journal articles: "almost 1,000 articles related to the field published in peer reviewed journals between 2000 and 2010 on topics that include well–being, pride, forgiveness, happiness, mindfulness and psychological strength — and how these attributes are related to both mental and physical health" (Azar, 2011, p. 34).

Books: See the annotated bibliography section C2

Handbooks: Gilman, Huebner, & Furlong, 2009; Linley & Joseph, 2004; Lopez & Snyder, 2004; Ong & van Dulmen, 2006; Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Synder & Lopez, 2002.

Milestone articles:

Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008; Cowen & Kilmer, 2002; Duckworth, Steen & Seligman 2005; Fitzpatrick & Stalikas, 2008; Fredrickson, 1998, 2001, 2004; Gable & Haidt, 2005; Held, 2002; Maslow, 1965a; McNulty & Fincham, 2011; Seligman, 1998a; Seligman, 1998b; Seligman, 1998c; Seligman & Fowler, 2011; Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2001; Taylor, 1989.

Lead: Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000).
Replies: Abi-Hashem, 2001; Bacigalupe, 2001; Baltes & Staudinger, 2000; Bohart & Greening, 2001; Buss, 2000; Catania, 2001; Compton, 2001; Diener, 2000; Kelley, 2001; Lampropoulos, 2001; Larson, 2000; Lubinski & Benbow, 2000; Massimini & Delle Fave, 2000; McLaffery & Kirylo, 2001; Myers, 2000; Peterson, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000; Schwartz, 2000; Shapiro, 2001; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2001; Simonton, 2000; Taylor, Kemeny, Reed, Bower, & Gruenewald, 2000; Vaillant, 2000; Walsh, 2001; Winner, 2000.

Lead: Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2001.
Replies: Chao, 2002; Chovan, 2002;. Kassinove, 2002; Kendler, 2002; Lau, 2002; & Grigorenko, 2002.

Lead: Lazarus (2003a).
Replies: Campos, 2003; Csikszentmihalyi, 2003; Diener, 2003; Folkman & Moskowitz, 2003; Harvey & Pauwels, 2003; King, 2003; Lazarus, 2003b; Lyubomirsky & Abbe, 2003; Martin, 2003; Matthews & Zeidner, 2003; Peterson & Park, 2003; Rand & Snyder, 2003; Ryff, 2003; Seligman & Pawelski, 2003; Tennen & Affleck, 2003; Young–Eisendrath, 2003.

Lead: Sheldon, K. M., Cheng, C., & Hilpert, J. (2011). Understanding well-being and optimal functioning: Applying the Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC) model. Psychological Inquiry, 22
Replies: Deci & Ryan, 2011; Heintzelman & King, 2011; Kitayama & Na, 2011; Martin, Sanders, Shirk & Burgin, 2011; Mayer & Lang, 2011; McAdams & Manczak, 2011; Sheldon, 2011; Vallerand & Lalande, 2011.

"It is hard to think of a precedent for the rapid assimilation of positive psychology into the mainstream imagination. Clearly, that is the mark of a powerful, or at least powerfully compelling, idea."  …  "However, not all efforts in the name of positive psychology have been sound. There is an enormous flood of 'aftermarket' positive psychology products out there, and more seem to be generated every month. Consumers can get their hands on 'positive' books, services, unlicensed life coaches, motivational CD programs, and even bracelets and rocks!"  …  "There is probably little that true positive psychologists can do to defend the science from the more vulgar marketers, but the field should aggressively promote a clear vision of what science is, and what science is when it is applied to positive psychology" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 18).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.2 Foundational concepts/Definitions

Comment: from the beginning Seligman didn't seem to have a clear focus on what he was looking at. For example, in one of his first publications on his new venture he introduces a presidential task force on prevention that will ultimately sponsor a special issue on prevention for the American Psychologist edited by Csikszentmihalyi, "it will ask what psychology can do to nurture highly talented children [italics added]" (Seligman, 1998a, p. 2). In this column, Seligman then goes on to ask how we can prevent problems by promoting the competence of individuals.
"We have discovered that there is a set of human strengths that are the most likely buffers against mental illness: courage, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, hope, honesty and perseverance. Much of the task of prevention will be to create a science of human strength whose mission will be to foster these virtues in young people" (Seligman, 1998a, p. 2).
 "Such science and practice will prevent many of the major emotional disorders" it will also have two side effects, it will make people physically healthier and "it will also re-orient psychology to its two neglected missions, making normal people stronger and more productive as well as making high human potential actual" (Seligman, 1998a, p. 2).

"My vision is that social science will finally see beyond the remedial, and escape from the muckraking that has claimed it, that social-science will become a positive force for understanding and promoting the highest qualities of civic and personal life" (Seligman, 1998b, p. 2).

"The thorough investigation of personal strength and civic virtue will not come easily or cheaply. It can be the 'Manhattan project' of the social sciences, but it will require substantial resources. The positive social science of the 21st century will have as a useful side effect the possibility of prevention of the serious mental illnesses; for there are a set of human strengths that most likely buffer against mental courage, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, hope, responsibility, future-mindedness, honesty and perseverance, to name several. But it will have as its direct effect a scientific understanding of the practice of civic virtue and of the pursuit of the best things in life" (Seligman, 1998b, p. 5).

 Comment: from what I can see, it's only in this third, that Seligman first uses the term positive psychology. The focus on highly talented children also disappears. "A focus of the convention in San Francisco and a central mission of my presidency is to nurture a science and a practice of positive psychology. Here is a progress report on the three first steps" (Seligman, 1998c, p. 2).

"The main purpose of a positive psychology is to ure, understand and then build the human strengths and the civic virtues" (Seligman, 1998c, p. 2).

"Positive psychology needs a taxonomy."  …  "Here are several ways of casting the questions about the good life. Which will be most fruitful for a taxonomy?

"We can articulate a vision of the good life that is empirically sound and, at the same time, understandable and attractive. We can show the world what actions lead to well-being, to positive individuals, to flourishing communities, and to a just society" (Seligman, 1999, p. 560).

"I look to a new social and behavioral science that seeks to understand and nurture those human strengths that can prevent the tragedy of mental illness. For it is my belief that no medication or technique of therapy holds as much promise for serving as a buffer against mental illness as does human strength. But psychology's focus on the negative has left us knowing too little about the many instances of growth, mastery, drive, and character building that can develop out of painful life events" (Seligman, 1999, p. 561).

Seligman's (1999, p. 560) initiative is to "encourage and foster the growth of the new science and profession of positive psychology."

Seligman described how he established two groups, one to look at the "characteristics of a positive life and how they can be measured and taught." The second group "seeks to transform the study of genius and extraordinary accomplishment." Seligman refers to the second group as the "Truly Extraordinary People" group. Interestingly, I don't see any further references to the work of this group. (Seligman, 1999, p. 562).

Fredrickson introduced the "Broaden and Build" theory in order to account for what positive emotions do. They broaden the breadth of thought–action repertoires and build enduring physical, intellectual and social resources (Frederickson, 1998).

Fredrickson advances a new theory describing the form and function of joy, interest, contentment, and love. In her new approach, she rejects two former common assumptions about emotion: "I propose discarding two key presumptions. The first is the presumption that emotions must necessarily yield specific action tendencies"  …  and "that emotions must necessarily spark tendencies for physical action. Some positive emotions seem instead to spark changes primarily in cognitive activity, with changes in physical activity (if any) following from these cognitive changes" (Fredrickson, 1998, p. 303). "So, in place of action tendencies, I propose speaking of thought–action tendencies" (Fredrickson, 1998, p. 303). Whereas negative emotions narrow a person's momentary thought–action repertoire, positive emotions broaden this repertoire. Thus, positive emotions "prompt individuals to discard time–tested or automatic (everyday) behavioral scripts and to pursue novel, creative, and often unscripted paths of thought and action" (Fredrickson, 1998, p. 304). Fredrickson's new paradigm also may explain how positive emotions may act to regulate negative emotions.

"Psychology sorely needs more studies on positive emotions, not simply to level the uneven knowledge bases between negative and positive emotions, but more critically, to guide applications and interventions that might improve individual and collective functioning, psychological wellbeing, and physical health" (Fredrickson, 1998, p. 300).

"We desperately need a positive psychology that provides us with information about how to build virtues like creativity, hope, future– mindedness, interpersonal skill, moral judgment, forgiveness, humor and courage and how to enhance happiness and life satisfaction" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s163).

"strengths include optimism, hope, courage, honesty, realism, putting troubles into perspective, a sense of meaning or purpose, perseverance, future– mindedness, interpersonal skill, empathy, humor and the capacity for pleasure. Studies are needed that assess psychological strengths and their relationships to therapeutic outcome" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s170).

"Mr. Seligman has written that the field's mission is not just to measure positive experience but 'to build the human strengths and civic virtues.' He proposes to identify them by looking at 'an array of paradigmatic 'good lives.' ' -- such as those of Thomas Jefferson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill -- against which psychologists might measure other experiences. But critics balk at the notion of a psychologist's 'Book of Virtues'. Howard [see Kendler, 1999], a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says he is troubled by any science that sets itself up as a moral authority. 'Psychology is a part of society and has its rules, but they're going beyond that now by talking about the kind of good life we should have,' he says. 'In a democracy, you have different moral principles,' and 'good lives' that may not fit a model set by the likes of Thomas Jefferson" (Ruark, 1999, pp. 6-7).

Kendler (1999) rejects positive approaches to psychology and concludes that a negative conceptualization of mental health is necessary to serve the needs of society and meet the demands of science.

"Mr. Seligman says that although he recognizes standards may vary across cultures, he believes in universals. 'We evolved biologically and created universal moral virtues.' Yet, he insists, 'I would not pretend to say what they are.'" (Ruark, 1999, p. 8).

"A science of positive, subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promises to improve the quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 7).

Three levels: subjective, individual and group: "The field of positive psychology at the subjective level is about positive subjective experience: well–being and satisfaction (past); flow, joy, the sensual pleasures, and happiness (present); and constructive cognitions about the future—optimism, hope, and faith. At the individual level it is about positive personal traits—the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level it is about the civic virtues and the institutions that move individuals toward better citizenship: responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic (Gillham & Seligman, 1999; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)" (Seligman, 2002b, p. 3).

This is from the Akumal manifesto (2000) on the Positive Psychology Center website, University of Pennsylvania, Retrieved July 18, 2011 from https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/Positive%20Psychology%20Manifesto.docx

Akumal Manifesto

Authors: Ken Sheldon, Barbara Frederickson, Kevin Rathunde, Mike Csikszentmihalyi, and Jon Haidt. This manifesto was originally created during the Akumal 1 meeting in January 1999, and was revised following the Akumal 2 meeting in January 2000.

1. Definition Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. The positive psychology movement represents a new commitment on the part of research psychologists to focus attention upon the sources of psychological health, thereby going beyond prior emphases upon disease and disorder.

2. Goals To meet these objectives we must consider optimal functioning at multiple levels, including biological, experiential, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global. It is necessary to study a) the dynamic relations between processes at these levels, b) the human capacity to create order and meaning in response to inevitable adversity, and c) the means by which "the good life," in its many manifestations, may emerge from these processes.

3. Applications Potential applications of positive psychology include: Improving child education by making greater use of intrinsic motivation, positive affect, and creativity within schools Improving psychotherapy by developing approaches that emphasize hope, meaning, and self–healing Improving family life by better understanding the dynamics of love, generativity, and commitment Improving work satisfaction across the lifespan by helping people to find authentic involvement, experience states of flow, and make genuine contributions in their work Improving organizations and societies by discovering conditions that enhance trust, communication, and altruism between persons Improving the moral character of society by better understanding and promoting the spiritual impulse within humans. (Sheldon, Frederickson, Rathunde, Csikszentmihalyi, and Haidt, 2000)

The role of positive emotions in positive psychology:

Kennon Sheldon and Laura King (2001) describe positive psychology as follows: What is positive psychology? It is nothing more than the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues. Positive psychology revisits "the average person" with an interest in finding out what works, what's right, and what's improving. It asks, "What is the nature of the efficiently functioning human being, successfully applying evolved adaptations and learned skills? And how can psychologists explain the fact that despite all the difficulties, the majority of people manage to live lives of dignity and purpose?"  …  Positive psychology is thus an attempt to urge psychologists to adopt a more open and appreciative perspective regarding human potentials, motives, and capacities (p. 216).

"So Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose" (Seligman, 2002, p. xiv).

"Positive feeling is a neon 'here–be–growth' marquee that tells you that a potential win–win encounter is at hand. By activating an expansive, tolerant, and creative mindset, positive feelings maximize the social, intellectual, and physical benefits that will accrue" (Seligman, 2002, p. 45).

"Positive psychology has three pillars:

"The first pillar of positive psychology is about the positive subjective experience of the past, present, and future. Positive subjective experience about the past is contentment, satisfaction, and well–being. Positive subjective experience about the present is happiness, flow, ecstasy, and the sensual pleasures. And positive subjective experience about the future is optimism and hope" (Seligman, 2003, p. xvi).

"The second pillar of the science is the investigation of positive individual characteristics: the strengths and the virtues. If we want to get the public, U.S. Congress, and the medical profession thinking about how to assess positive lives, then we need to move away from the DSM model (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). We need an alternative that is essentially the opposite of the DSM. In other words, we need a sensible classification of the strengths" (Seligman, 2003, p. xvi).

"The third pillar of positive psychology is the study of positive institutions and positive communities. Sociology has languished in the same way as psychology; it has been mostly about disabling conditions, the "isms" racism, sexism, and ageism–and how the isms ruin lives. Even if we were able to get rid of all those isms, we would still only be at zero. So positive psychology and positive sociology need to ask, 'What are the institutions that take human beings above zero?'" (Seligman, 2003, p. xvii).

"Three applications will foster the three pillars of positive psychology. The first is assessment"  …  "A second application is intervention"  …  "The third application is life–span development" (Seligman, 2003, p. xvii).

"What are the long–term aims of positive psychology? The first is fostering better prevention by buffering. The second is supplementing the available techniques for therapy by training practitioners to identify and build strengths explicitly and systematically. The third is to curtail the promiscuous victimology that pervades the social sciences"  …  "The fourth aim of positive psychology involves moving psychology from the egocentric to the philanthropic" (Seligman, 2003, p. xviii).

"In short, positive psychology is a view within scientific psychology that aims to achieve a balanced and empirically grounded body of research on human nature and social relations. In particular, positive psychology says that more work is needed in the areas of virtues, character strengths, and the social, psychological, and biological factors that enable human beings to flourish" (Keyes & Haidt, 2003, p. 4).

"positive social science assumes that human goodness and excellence are as authentic as disease, disorder, and distress" (Peterson, 2004a, p. 187).

"Positive psychology is an umbrella term for theories and research about what makes life most worth living (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)" (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, p. 603).

"Strengths of character and positive experiences such as a satisfied life are among the central concerns of positive psychology (McCullough & Snyder, 2000; Seligman, 2002)" (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, p. 603).

Six classes of virtue (i.e., "core virtues") (Peterson and Seligman, 2004).

You can test yourself to discover your "signature strengths" using the Values in Action (VIA) Strengths Inventory. https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/resources/questionnaires-researchers/survey-character-strengths#:~:text=The%20Values%20in%20Action%20(VIA,that%20comprise%20the%20VIA%20Classification..

In lamenting on his decision not to become a philosopher, Seligman explains "I was always a bit a fish out of water because psychology's several conceptual confusions, its wooly reasoning, and especially its complacent ignorance of the great philosophical forbears of psychology troubled me" (Seligman, 2004b. p. 2). Comment: it is my position that Seligman has done very little to alleviate psychology's "conceptual confusions and woolly reasoning", quite the contrary, he seems to have contributed to it.

"At the subjective level, positive psychology looks at positive subjective states or positive emotions such as happiness, joy, satisfaction with life, relaxation, love, intimacy, and contentment. Positive subjective states also can include constructive thoughts about the self and the future, such as optimism and hope …  . At the individual level, positive psychology focuses on a study of positive individual traits, or the more enduring and persistent behavior patterns seen in people over time. This study might include individual traits such as courage, persistence, honesty, or wisdom …  . Last, at the group or societal level, positive psychology focuses on the development, creation, and maintenance of positive institutions. In this area, positive psychology addresses issues such as the development of civic virtues, the creation of healthy families, the study of healthy work environments, and positive communities" (Compton, 2005, p. 4).

"one of the distinguishing features of positive psychology is a focus on what constitutes the type of life for human beings that leads to the greatest sense of well–being, satisfaction or contentment, and the good life" (Compton, 2005, p. 7).

"In positive psychology, the good life has been seen as a combination of three elements: positive connections to others, positive individual traits, and life regulation qualities"(Compton, 2005, p. 7).
Enlarging on these three aspects, Compton (2005, p. 7) says: "positive connections to others can include the ability to love, the presence of altruistic concerns, the ability to forgive, and the presence of spiritual connections to help create a sense of deeper meaning and purpose in life. Positive individual traits can include, among other elements, a sense of integrity, the ability to play and be creative, and the presence of virtues such as courage and humility. Finally, life regulation qualities are those that allow us to regulate our day–to–day behavior in such a way that we can accomplish our goals while helping to enrich the people and institutions that we encounter along the way. These qualities include a sense of individuality or autonomy, a high degree of healthy self–control, and the presence of wisdom as a guide to behavior."

"some people do not just adapt to life—they adapt extraordinarily well. Some adapt so well that they serve as role models of incredible resiliency, perseverance, and fortitude. One of the goals of positive psychology is to understand how those people manage to accomplish such high levels of thriving and flourishing" (Compton, 2005, p. 8).

"Psychology has long ignored human excellence, in part because we lack a crucial starting point: an empirically informed, consensual classification of human virtues" (Dahlsgaard, Peterson & Seligman, 2005, p. 203).

"Positive psychology is the scientific study of positive experiences and positive individual traits, and the institutions that facilitate their development" (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005, p. 630).

"human flourishing is optimal functioning characterized by four key components: (a) goodness, indexed by happiness, satisfaction, and superior functioning; (b) generativity, indexed by broadened thought–action repertoires and behavioral flexibility; (c) growth, indexed by gains in enduring personal and social resources; and (d) resilience, indexed by survival and growth in the aftermath of adversity" (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 685).

"Positive psychology aims to broaden the focus of clinical psychology beyond suffering and its direct alleviation. Introduced as an initiative of Martin Seligman in 1998, then president of the American Psychological Association, positive psychology is the scientific study of strengths, well–being, and optimal functioning" (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005, p. 631).

"Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions" (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 104).


Mind map of positive psychology (Boniwell, 2006, p. 2).

"Aristotle believed that there was a unique daimon, or spirit within each individual, that guides us to pursue things that are right for us. Acting in accordance with this daimon leads one to happiness" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 5).

"the scientific study of optimal human functioning"  …  "at the pragmatic level, it is about understanding the wellsprings, processes and mechanisms that lead to desirable outcomes" (Linley et al., 2006, p. 8)

"As envisioned by Seligman (1998b, 1998c), positive psychology has three primary goals. The first is to delineate and measure positive traits 'that transcend particular cultures and politics and approach universality' (Seligman, 1998c, p. 1), thus putting us in a position to begin 'building' human strengths, civic virtues, and the 'good life.' The second goal is to promote positive experiences and emotions. The third is to create more positive communities and institutions that will embody and promote these strengths and experiences" (Christopher, Richardson & Slife, 2008, p. 556).

"In formulating the conceptual framework for positive psychology, we took the scientifically unwieldy notion of "happiness" and broke it down into several more quantifiable aspects: positive emotion (the pleasant life), engagement (the engaged life), and purpose (the meaningful life)" (Seligman, 2008, p. 7).

"What makes positive psychology so noteworthy is its extraordinary success in such a short time. The movement's many new journals and numerous books attract large numbers of people to join its organizations and attend its conferences, garnering significant grant and foundation support. It is noticed widely in the public media, and new graduate programs offer master's and doctoral degrees in positive psychology as a specialization" (Friedman, 2009).

Four forms of happiness (also referred to as the four forms of life):

"In the original theory (Seligman, 2002) "happiness" is decomposed into Positive Psychology and three more scientifically manageable components: positive emotion (the pleasant life), engagement (the engaged life), and meaning (the meaningful life)" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, pp. 3–4).

Originally there were three lives: "positive psychology is not, and has never been, just happiology. It is the study of three very different kinds of positive lives: the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life (Seligman, 2002)" (Seligman & Pawelski, 2003, p. 161).

"The pleasant life is what hedonic theories of happiness are about. This life consists in successfully pursuing positive emotion about the present, past, and future, having as much as possible (and as little negative emotion) and learning the skills that amplify the intensity and duration of the positive emotions and diminish the negative emotions" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 4).

"The second "happy" life in PP theory is the engaged life, a life that successfully pursues engagement, involvement and absorption in the domains of work, intimate relations, and leisure (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Flow is Csikszentmihalyi's term for the psychological state that accompanies highly engaging activities" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 6).

"The third "happy" life in PP theory involves the pursuit of purpose. This life consists in using one's signature strengths and talents to belong to and serve something that one believes is bigger than the self" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, pp. 8–9).

"With the amendment introduced below, we will call this the "Authentic Happiness" theory (AH) of happiness" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 4).

"Therefore we now amend AH theory to postulate a fourth and different road to "happiness." The Achieving Life. A life dedicated to achieving for the sake of achievement" …  . "People who lead the Achieving Life are often absorbed in what they do, they often pursue pleasure avidly and feel positive emotion (however evanescent) when they win, and they may win partly in service of something larger" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 13).

"PERMA" framework, Seligman (2011):

"Thus, PP may be defined as the scientific study of virtue, meaning, resilience, and well–being, as well as evidence based applications to improve the life of individuals and society in the totality of life" (Wong, 2011, p. 72).

Seligman (2011) now says the following:
"I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well–being, that the gold standard for measuring well–being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well–being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.
There are three inadequacies in authentic happiness theory. The first is that the dominant popular connotation of "happiness" is inextricably bound up with being in a cheerful mood. Positive emotion is the rock–bottom meaning of happiness. Critics cogently contend that authentic happiness theory arbitrarily and preemptively redefines happiness by dragging in the desiderata of engagement and meaning to supplement positive emotion. Neither engagement nor meaning refers to how we feel, and while we may desire engagement and meaning, they are not and can never be part of what "happiness" denotes.
The second inadequacy in authentic happiness theory is that life satisfaction holds too privileged a place in the measurement of happiness. Happiness in authentic happiness theory is operationalized by the gold standard of life satisfaction, a widely researched self–report measure that asks on a 1–to– 10 scale how satisfied you are with your life, from terrible (a score of 1) to ideal (10). The goal of positive psychology follows from the gold standard–to increase the amount of life satisfaction on the planet. It turns out, however, that how much life satisfaction people report is itself determined by how good we feel at the very moment we are asked the question. Averaged over many people, the mood you are in determines more than 70 percent of how much life satisfaction you report and how well you judge your life to be going at that moment determines less than 30 percent. So the old, gold standard of positive psychology is disproportionately tied to mood, the form of happiness that the ancients snobbishly, but rightly, considered vulgar. My reason for denying mood a privileged place is not snobbishness, but liberation. A mood view of happiness consigns the 50 percent of the world's population who are "low–positive affective" to the hell of unhappiness. Even though they lack cheerfulness, this low–mood half may have more engagement and meaning in life than merry people. Introverts are much less cheery than extroverts, but if public policy is based (as we shall inquire in the final chapter) on maximizing happiness in the mood sense, extroverts get a much greater vote than introverts. The decision to build a circus rather than a library based on how much additional happiness will be produced counts those capable of cheerful mood more heavily than those less capable. A theory that counts increases in engagement and meaning along with increases in positive emotion is morally liberating as well as more democratic for public policy. And it turns out that life satisfaction does not take into account how much meaning we have or how engaged we are in our work or how engaged we are with the people we love. Life satisfaction essentially measures cheerful mood, so it is not entitled to a central place in any theory that aims to be more than a happiology.
The third inadequacy in authentic happiness theory is that positive emotion, engagement, and meaning do not exhaust the elements that people choose for their own sake. "Their own sake" is the operative phrase: to be a basic element in a theory, what you choose must serve no other master. This was Sonia's challenge; she asserted that many people live to achieve, just for achievement's sake."

four dimensions of psychological "fitness":

"five areas of fitness were identified as critical to the overall physical and psychological fitness of soldiers. These are physical, emotional, social, family, and spiritual fitness. The group focused on identifying measures of the latter four domains, since robust measures of physical fitness already exist" (Corium, Matthews, & Seligman, 2011, p. ).

In summary, so far we have:

"In sum, from a definitional standpoint, positive psychology is a positive science that conducts basic research with an eye to improving human life and functioning; its practitioners try to at least take an appreciative view of the positive aspects of human nature, even if they do not go so far as to assume that human nature is 'basically good'; they tend to study topics that are framed in positive terms rather than in polar negative terms; and they try to recognize and correct (when necessary) the negative biases regarding human nature that used to permeate the field, even as they try to remain realistic, so as not to fall prey to wishful thinking and overly rosy visions and so as not to ignore important 'negative' aspects of human nature that impact upon their topics" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 422).

Driver (2011) identified 6 themes of positive psychology most applicable to coaching; strengths, positive emotions, resilience, mindset, relationships and personal growth.

Driver (2011) identified 7 prominent authors in positive psychology; Martin Seligman; Alex Linley (Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP)); Carol Dweck; Barbara Fredrickson; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener ( CAPP).

overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from how much money you have stashed in your bank account. Anderson, C., Kraus, M. W., Galinsky, A. D., & Keltner, D. (2012).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.3 Scope and boundary issues

"the SI [Special Issue] articles reflect many different targeted goals, some unrelated to each other or to any immediately discernible overview of positive psychology's ultimate thrust" (Cowen & Kilmer, 2002).

subfields within positive social science: Positive youth development applies the premises of positive social science to children and adolescents and the institutions that socialize them; Positive psychology approaches the individual from the positive perspective and concerns itself with the states and traits that undergird the good life; positive organizational studies takes seriously the existence of institutions that contribute to the fulfillment of its members and the larger society (Peterson, 2004a, p. 188).

Comment: it's impressive how wide a net positive psychology has cast; wider than implied above. For example, moving into areas of physical health (cancer), psychotherapy, coaching, and education to name a few.

Whereas, others fields such as moral development theory and research "have curiously not been included" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 574).

In commenting on the January 2000 Special Issue [SI] of the American Psychologist, Friedman (2009) suggested that many entries seemed "largely irrelevant to positive psychology."

"The Modesty of the Theory. This is far from a "fell swoop" theory. Its scope is the empirical analysis and discovery of interventions that build positive emotion, engagement, meaning, and achievement. As above, it is not a moral theory, it is not a theory of truth, it is not a theory of justice, it is not a theory of public policy, and it is not a theory of beauty—although it bears on and may inform all these great issues. (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 17).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.4 Disconnections from historical antecedents

The term "positive psychology" originated in 1954 when Maslow titled the last chapter (chapter 18) of his book Motivation and Personality"Toward a Positive Psychology."

In this section I want to explore what Maslow had to say in 1954 because while many people refer to Maslow's use of the term in his book, very few sources discuss what he actually said in his chapter.
 Maslow said the purpose of chapter 18, Toward a positive psychology, was to discuss a major mistake made by psychologists, "namely, their pessimistic, negative, and limited conception of the full height to which the human being can attain, their totally inadequate conception of his level of aspiration in life, and their setting of his psychological limits at too low a level" (Maslow, 1954, pp. 353- 354).
 Maslow noted that "the science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man's shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology had voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half" (Maslow, 1954, p. 354).
 Maslow said this was the result of a systemic problem, that psychology reflected the ideology of the world outlook, an ideology heavy on technology but neglecting humanistic principles and values. This approach stresses behavior while neglecting the inner subjective life.
 "Dynamic psychology was doomed to a negative derivation by the historical accident that psychiatry rather than experimental psychology concerned itself with the conative and emotional. It was from the study of neurotics and other sick people that we learned most of what we know about personality and motivation" (Maslow, 1954, p. 355).
 In a subsection titled "low-ceiling psychology" Maslow discusses the mechanisms by which the blindness of psychology is perpetuated. One such mechanism is that psychology "consists only of defining science strictly in terms of past and what is already known" (Maslow, 1954, p. 356). Every new question or approach is then considered unscientific and there is no opportunity to forge new ground. Maslow describes how this status quo feels comfortable and has familiarity that makes change difficult (we tend to improve our homes by adding on rather than rebuilding).
 Maslow quoted Kurt Lewin suggesting we study what is rather than what ought to be or what might be under ideal conditions because we identify the status quo with the ideal.
 Part of this perpetuation is through self-fulfilling prophecy. Our belief in the negative and in limitations becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.
 Experimental technique is another perpetuating factor. In many cases, the experimental design does not allow one to function to one's best because of the conditions. Maslow gave the example if we put tall people into a low ceiling room where they could not stand up and then we measured their height we would be measuring the height of the room and not the people inside. Self limiting methods measure only their own limitations.
 "Hamilton generalized from poor, uneducated people. Freud generalized too much from neurotic people. Hobbes and other philosophers observed masses of mankind under very bad social and economic and educational conditions and came to conclusions that ought not to be generalized to men under good economic and political and educational conditions. This we may call low-ceiling or cripple or jungle psychology, but certainly not general psychology" (Maslow, 1954, p. 359).
 "The self-derogation of psychology is another responsible factor. Out of the general cultural trends already mentioned, psychologists tend to admire the technologically advanced sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, more than they do psychology, in spite of the fact that from the humanistic point of view psychology is obviously the new frontier, and by far the most important science today" (Maslow, 1954, p. 359).
 We measure how intelligent an individual is under some actual condition but we do not measure how intelligent an individual could be under the best conditions. Measurement of the actual is inherently pessimistic compared to the theoretical measurement of what might be–the potentiality.
 "If one is preoccupied with the insane, the neurotic, the psychopath, the criminal, the delinquent, the feeble-minded, one's hopes for the human species become perforce more and more modest, more and more realistic, more and more scaled down. One expects less and less from people" (Maslow, 1954, p. 360). [This reminds me of a quote attributed to Freud: "the more people I met, the less I liked people"] Maslow went on: "The exclusive study of our failures and breakdowns will hardly breed inspiration, hopefulness, and optimistic ambitions in either the layman or the scientist" (Maslow, 1954, p. 360).
 "In a word, if we are interested in the psychology of the human species we should limit ourselves to the use of the self-actualizing, the psychologically healthy, the mature, the fulfilled, for they are more truly representative of the human species than the usual average or normal group. The psychology generated by the study of healthy people could fairly be called positive by contrast with the negative psychology we now have, which has been generated by the study of sick or average people" (Maslow, 1954, p. 361).
 "This presents us with our practical difficulty of getting together large enough groups of individuals with whom to do statistically sound experimentation. This I have managed without too much loss of principle by arbitrarily using the best one out of one hundred of the general college population (the psychiatrically healthiest 1 percent). The other 99 percent are then discarded as imperfect, immature, or crippled specimens" (Maslow, 1954, p. 361).

Maslow subsequently wrote in the preface to the second edition:
"I have decided to omit the last chapter of the first edition of this book, 'Toward a Positive Psychology'; what was 98 percent true in 1954 is only two–thirds true today. A positive psychology is at least available today though not very widely. The humanistic psychologies, the new transcendent psychologies, the existential, the Rogerian, the experiential, the holistic, the value–seeking psychologies, are all thriving and available, at least in the United States, though unfortunately not yet in most departments of psychology" (Maslow, 1987, p. xxviii).

"It would seem, consequently, to be more fruitful to tackle the concept of mental health in its more positive connotation, noting, however, that the absence of disease may constitute a necessary, but not a sufficient, criterion for mental health" (Jahoda, 1958, pp. 14-15).

"Psychology ought to become more positive and less negative. It should have higher ceilings, and not be afraid of the loftier possibilities of the human being.
One major shortcoming of research psychology, and psychiatry as well, is its pessimistic, negative and limited conception of the full height to which the human being can attain. Partly because of this preconception, it has so far revealed many of man's shortcomings, weaknesses and ills, but few of his virtues, potentialities or higher aspirations. In the book to which I have referred I have made a number of positive suggestions for needed research. This is not a call for optimism. Rather it is a demand for realism in the best sense of the word. It is ridiculous to identify realism with darkness, misery, pathology and breakdown, as so many contemporary novelists have done. Happiness is as real as unhappiness; gratification is as real as frustration; love is as real as hostility.
However, I want to stress the most important single example of this mistake, namely, the contrast between our knowledge of psychological sickness and our wholly inadequate attention to psychological health" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 27).

"In the 16 articles [in the January 2000 Special Issue of the American Psychologist], 178 pages, and over 1,300 references in this issue, I found extremely few (approximately 6, or 0.4%) references to the seminal and foundational works of Rogers, Maslow, May, Bugental, Bühler, Combs, Carkhuff, and many others, some of whom have done widely respected quantitative investigations" (Shapiro, 2001, p. 82)

"I well recognize that positive psychology is not a new idea. It has many distinguished ancestors (e.g., Allport, 1961; Maslow, 1971). But they somehow failed to attract a cumulative and empirical body of research to ground their ideas" (Seligman, 2002, p. 7).

"A serious limitation of how positive psychology has been presented has been its profound neglect of past contributions as well as the broad scope of current research dealing with positive, healthy, adaptive functioning" (Ryff, 2003, p. 155).

In looking at the pragmatism of William James, Lacks (2004, p. 2) makes the following observation: "Pragmatists focus their efforts on the intelligent and energetic improvement of life. Their primary interest resides in enhancement, not remediation. In this, they are in complete agreement with positive psychologists."

William James: "Healthy-minded individuals believe evil is not an essential component of the world. For healthy-minded individuals, the way to a joyful and meaningful life lies through minimizing our awareness of evil. By ignoring or reinterpreting our experiences of it, they hold, we transform evil into good" (Pawelski, 2003, p. 53).

"James addresses the question of dynamogenesis, of how to raise our levels of mental and moral energy. That we all have levels of such energy that we normally do not tap is made evident, for James, by a consideration of what we call 'second wind'" (Pawelski, 2003, p. 57).

James calls for a new psychology that will address two fundamental issues, as quoted by Pawelski (2003, p. 59): " 'We ought somehow to get a topographic survey made of the limits of human power in every conceivable direction, something like an ophthamologist's [sic] chart of the limits of the human field of vision'. The second problem is one of means. He writes, '[W]e ought  …  to construct a methodical inventory of the paths of access, or keys, differing with the diverse types of individual, to the different kinds of power.'"
Pawelski (2003, p. 60) goes on to compare the development of the Values in Action Classification of Strengths Manual (Peterson and Seligman 2003) with the chart of human powers described by James.

The methodology of James: James was concerned laboratory approaches were too narrow and his solution was "to comb historical and biographical materials in search of accounts of individuals who have actually had the kinds of religious experiences he is studying. He takes as his data on conversion first-hand accounts of individuals who have experienced a conversion" (Pawelski, 2003, p. 61). I think this is the same sort of approach used by Maslow and Dąbrowski.

An important issue is brought up by James involving the distinction between accounts of the moment versus memories of one's experiences. As Daniel Kahneman, has elaborated, there are fundamental differences between momentary experiences and the remembered experience of those events.

"The excitement of the responsibilities of a new position, for example, energizes us to work harder to meet them. Crises such as shipwrecks, battles, and-I might add-national tragedies call up levels of energy in us we had no idea were there" (Pawelski, 2003, p. 58).

"we propose that William James's focus on belief in The will to believe and habit in The principles of psychology provides a useful philosophical foundation and interpretation of the role of optimism, hope, and faith, as contributors to quality of life. Likewise, James's discussion of disposition in The varieties of religious experience offers an important criticism to many contemporary assumptions of positive psychology. One recent writer has suggested that, were James to return to the field today, he would want to explore the role of knowledge, action, and hope as elements of coping—to study human nature as people struggle to be good at being human (Howard 1992)" (Keith & Keith, 2004, p. 5).

"Thus, optimism, hope, and happiness are learned habits that constitute our orientation to the world. Like any habits, these are difficult to cultivate, require constant practice, and are best planted early on. Education, social interaction, interpersonal relationships, and the quality of our institutions all ground our orientation to a precarious world" (Keith & Keith, 2004, p. 7).

"Almost 40 years ago, Abraham Maslow (1965a) proclaimed that "Psychology ought to become more positive and less negative. It should have higher ceilings, and not be afraid of the loftier possibilities of the human being" (p. 27)" (Keyes & Haidt, 2003, p. 5).

"Nearly 50 years ago Allport (1955) lamented the prominence of theories of human experience based on weakness, despair, and pathology, and he, like his modern counterparts, called on psychologists to investigate positive characteristics such as courage and wisdom. Frankl (1967) proposed that a 'height psychology' be added to Freud's depth psychology in order to do justice to the positive side of human functioning. And Maslow (1968) advocated for the 'direct study of …  healthy rather than sick people' (p. 156). His designation for this field of inquiry that would focus on psychologically healthy individuals was, in fact, positive psychology. More than 30 years ago Wilson (1972) described Maslow's work as 'revolutionary' precisely because it focused on psychological health. Rogers (1961) too viewed as revolutionary the 'growing recognition that the …  deepest layer of …  personality …  is positive in nature' (p. 91)." (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, p. 165).

Seligman seems to try to respond to the criticisms: "Humanistic psychology is the field most identified with the study and promotion of positive human experience. In a special positive psychology edition of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, contributors traced the roots of positive psychology to the academic humanist psychology movement (cf. Resnick et al. 2001). The grandparents of humanistic psychology—Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Henry Murray, Gordon Allport, and Rollo May—all grappled with many of the same questions pursued by positive psychologists (Sheldon & Kasser 2001)." (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005, p. 632).

"In the 20th century, many prominent psychologists focused on what later became the subject matter of positive psychology. Amongst them were Carl Jung with his individuation, or 'becoming all that one can be' concept 3, Maria Jahoda, concerned with defining positive mental health 4 and Gordon Allport, interested in individual maturity 5. Since then, the matters of flourishing and wellbeing were raised in the work on prevention 6 and wellness enhancement 7. The most notable of positive psychology's predecessors, however, was the humanistic psychology movement, which originated in the 1950s and reached its peak in the 60s and 70s. This movement placed central emphasis on the growth and authentic self of an individual. Humanistic psychologists were critical of pathology oriented approaches to a human being. The most famous ones were Carl Rogers, who introduced the concept of the fully functioning person, and Abraham Maslow, who emphasised self-actualization. In fact it was Maslow who was the very first to use the term positive psychology" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 5).

"Rightly or wrongly, positive psychology tends to present itself as a new movement, often attempting to distance itself from its origins" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 6).


(Boniwell, 2006, p. 6).

"Positive psychology represents a partial revival of the Maslowian vision and a rejection of its epistemological and methodological breadth. According to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), Maslow strayed from the 'true path' of science and thereby blurred the boundaries between popular and academic psychology. As Taylor (2001) has noted, such criticisms do little justice to the complexity of Maslow's thought, but perhaps more disconcertingly, they reveal the degree to which psychology is still mired in the same 'safety science' insecurities that Maslow identified all those years ago. Psychologists are still fretting over their disciplinary masculinity, still feeling the need to declare themselves 'unblushingly scientists first' (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2001, p.89) and still allowing simplistic, dated appeals to salvation through positivistic science to pass as intellectual innovation. In such a context, Maslow's example of intellectual openness, critical self-reflection, and philosophical curiosity is as relevant as ever" (Nicholson, I., 2007, p. 27).

"Positive psychologists have often compared their movement to that of their immediate predecessors, humanistic psychologists. We examine other historical predecessors of positive psychology. One is New Thought, one of several popular 'mind cure' movements that emphasized the transformational power of thought (Anker, 1999; Hale, 1971; Satter, 1999). Another is mental hygiene, which, like positive psychology, figured itself as a 'movement' and purported to use scientific methods to determine the conditions necessary to produce satisfied, industrious, and well–adjusted individuals. Yet another predecessor is social work, a discipline that, although sharing positive psychology's orientation to shoring up human strengths, has also continually advocated for social change and social justice" (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 592).

"I think it would be more felicitous to talk about today's movement as "third–generation positive psychology." "First–generation positive psychology" would then refer to the self–fulfillment agenda of humanistic psychology, and "second– generation positive psychology" to the intelligence–and adaptability approaches prevailing at the close of the 20th century, as well as to those current versions of positive psychology that place less emphasis on authenticity, meaning, and morality, and more on subjective well–being, than Seligman and Peterson do. Woolflock and Wasserman (2005) suggest an alternative terminology according to which today's virtue–based positive psychology would be counted as "second–generation," while positive psychology in its original formulation (see, especially, Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi's, 2000, manifesto) would be "first–generation" (cf. also Held, 2005). I would object to this terminology because it not only overlooks positive psychology's 20th–century heritage, but also it assumes that Seligman had a radical change of mind concerning the nature of the good life between 2000 and his 2004 work with Peterson. I fail, however, to see any evidence to support this. Quite the contrary: Seligman already waxes virtue–ethical in his 2000 piece with Csikszentmihalyi (see, especially, p. 8)." (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 298).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.5 Conceptual confusions/Vague conceptualizations/general criticisms

Commentary: Several articles have highlighted various issues and concerns with the concept of positive psychology (Cowen & Kilmer, 2002; Joseph & Linley, 2006; Held, 2004 ; Kristjansson, 2010; Lazarus, 2003; Lambert, & Erekson, 2008; Sugarman, 2007; Sundararajan, 2005; Taylor, 2001; Woolfolk & Wasserman, 2005; Woolfolk, 2002). Others have been critical of some of the specific conceptualizations presented by Seligman, for example, Seligman cited Aristotle and his concept of eudaimonia. Woolfolk and Wasserman (2005) found Seligman's interpretation "highly idiosyncratic" and ultimately a problem. Ultimately and most disturbingly of all, these authors cite an example that calls into question the attention to detail and ultimately the veracity of Seligman's scholarship.

"This, then, is the general stance of positive psychology toward prevention. It claims that there is a set of buffers against psychopathology: the positive human traits" (Seligman, 2002, p. 5). [what are positive human traits?]

"Experiences that induce positive emotion cause negative emotion to dissipate rapidly. [do they really?] The strengths and virtues function to buffer against misfortune and against the psychological disorders, and they may be the key to building resilience. Thus, positive psychology may become still more important in times of trouble, even though a bleeding nation may not easily see that, in the long run, building strength and virtue effectively stanches wounds" (Seligman, 2003, p. xii).

"[But the cost of these victories was that] psychology forgot its other two missions. It forgot that it is also about making the lives of normal people more fulfilling, more productive, and happier. It also forgot that one of its tasks is to nurture genius, to identify our most precious resource–talented young people–and find the conditions under which they will flourish. Genius and talent have become almost dirty words now, and it is incumbent on psychologists to make them respectable concepts once more" (Seligman, 2003, p. xv). [This is somewhat conceptually challenged: he just kind of lumps in genius as an afterthought here. So, do we have a positive psychology approach for average people and another for genius? Is genius the apex of positive psychology?]

"A collector of Wittgensteinobilia, Seligman has never found a photo of Wittgenstein smiling. Wittgenstein was depressive, irascible, and scathingly critical of everyone around him and even more critical of himself. In a typical seminar held in his cold and barely furnished Cambridge rooms, he would pace the floor muttering, "Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein, what a terrible teacher you are." Yet his last words give the lie to hedonics. Dying alone in a garret in Ithaca, New York, NY, he said to his landlady, "Tell them it's been wonderful!" (Seligman & Pawelski, 2003, p. 161).

[Seligman often repeats his stories and tells us one again:]

"Wittgenstein's alleged last words: "Tell them it's been wonderful!" Uttered by a very dysphoric man, who while low in all senses of Liking was nevertheless high in engagement, meaning, and achievement. We take Wittgenstein's considered use of words in dead earnest" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 22).

Yet, in reference to the above Woolfolk and Wasserman (2005, p. 86) challenge this interpretation saying: "This would be a wonderfully illustrative story if it were true."

Seligman tries to distance himself from "positive thinking" (harking back to The power of positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale) "positive thinking is an "armchair" activity. Positive psychology, on the other hand, is tied to a program of empirical and replicable scientific activity. Second, positive thinking urges positivity on us for all times and places, but positive psychology does not hold a brief for positivity. Positive psychology recognizes that in spite of the several advantages of positive thinking, there are times when negative thinking might be preferred" (Seligman & Pawelski, 2003, p. 161).

"A positive psychology that declares its independence from research in the areas of stress, coping, and adaptation; that insists on making qualitative distinctions between seemingly positive and negative human characteristics; that determines a priori and without attention to context those characteristics that will be studied as strengths; that follows psychology's most intractable methodological bad habits and then wears those habits as a merit badge; that distances itself from its predecessors; and that dismisses its critics as suspicious or closed-minded is, to use Lazarus's terminology, a movement without legs" (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, p. 168).

In order to define flourishing one can look at one's positivity/negativity ratio (P/N), that is, the ratio of good thoughts/positive feedback (e.g. "that is a good idea";) vs. negative thoughts/negative feedback (e.g. "this is not what I expected; I am disappointed"). Ideally, a ratio of about three good thoughts to every negative thought would constitute flourishing. (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).
"Mathematically, then, a positivity ratio of about 2.9 bifurcates the complex dynamics of flourishing from the limit cycle of languishing. We call this dividing line the Losada line. From a psychological standpoint, this ratio may seem absurdly precise. Yet we underscore that this bifurcation point is a mathematically derived theoretical ideal. Empirical observations made at various levels of measurement precision can test this prediction" (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 683).
"Our discovery of the critical 2.9013 positivity ratio may represent a breakthrough" (Fredrickson & Losada, 2005, p. 685). In other words, the Losada line establishes the minimum level at which a "complexor" is reached and is equal to a P/N of 2.9013.
In looking at the performance of business teams, Losada and Heaphy (2004, p. 740) found that "knowing the P/N ratio it is possible to run the nonlinear dynamics model that will portray what types of dynamics are possible for a team. These dynamics are of three types: point attractor, limit cycle, and complexor (complex order, or "chaotic" in the mathematical sense). Low performance teams end up in point attractor dynamics, medium performance teams in limit cycle dynamics, and high performance teams in complexor dynamics."

"The professional jargon includes recurring words like flow, optimism, resilience, courage, virtues, energy, flourishing, strengths, happiness, curiosity, meaning, subjective well–being, forgiveness, and even joy" (Lambert, 2007, p. 26).

"Although positive psychologists frequently mention virtue, it remains conceptually underdeveloped in their writings" (Fowers, 2008, p. 629).

"Virtue is a colloquial term and authors often seem to rely on their everyday understanding of the term rather than carefully studying the concept and its applications. This use of common–sense understandings of virtue has led to conceptual confusion and some misguided recommendations" (Fowers, 2008, p. 630).

"What is sometimes referred to as the 'science of happiness' gives politicians more hope. Also called positive psychology, it asks why, to quote Freud, psychology not only might replace neurotic unhappiness with normal unhappiness but also turn normal unhappiness into positive happiness. Positive psychology studies the various factors that could contribute to this transformation. Martin Seligman, the movement's founder, is modest about what it can attain – a 10 to 15 per cent rise in happiness in the average person – which is perhaps why his insights often sound like so much motherhood and apple–pie: 'work less', 'maintain the family', 'keep fit', 'find meaning'. Living in a 'wealthy democracy' not an 'impoverished dictatorship' takes first place on Seligman's list of external effects that can raise your happiness levels. And now a cure for cancer, professor!" (Vernon, 2008, p. 18).

"I conclude that this encyclopedia [Lopez, 2009] further proves that positive psychology is insufficiently developed to warrant an encyclopedia that presents it as a comprehensive area" (Friedman, 2009).

"[That] positive and negative affectivity are normally distributed. This means that some people, no matter what their subjective experiences, will not feel much. These people are low in feelings and may be low in satisfaction as well; they are systematically undercounted and discriminated against by any theory or public policy (heaven forbid!) that merely totes up the amount of positive emotion and the amount of satisfaction to decide if a given life is happy or a given policy worth spending tax money on" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 22).

Here is another example of what I would call a questionable conceptualization: "PP [Positive psychology] cannot resist saying that part of what alienates us from classical and contemporary philosophy is the habit of sheer grandiosity in its theory making. Aristotle wanted to solve the problem of happiness, truth, and justice in one fell swoop—with the same few tools. We think this kind of theorizing to be an error" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, pp. 17–18). It seems to me that the grandiosity and immodesty of positive psychology is overwhelming especially in Seligman's writings.

"As far back as 1954 Maslow used the term positive psychology so it is not necessarily a new and recent concept or field of study. What is new is the hype and controversy which surrounds this discipline. It connotates, for many, self–help and New Age movements and given the speed with which many of its psychologists have jumped on the self–help book bandwagon this is hardly surprising. Publish or perish should not mean anywhere at any cost. These pop culture enthusiasts bring the whole discipline of psychology into disrepute" ("Positive psychology: Where the big bucks are," 2010, para. 5).

"By marshalling perceptive, subtly nuanced, quantitative and qualitative data, we may discover a very different portrait of the "flourishing" person. This portrait would likely unveil a many textured personality – closer to Zorba the Greek, than to Dick or Jane who may well keep a clean and orderly life, but who, at the same time, may also quietly endorse a materialist, militarist, and imperialist lifestyle. How else will we find out about such discrepancies unless we employ methodologies that cut beneath the deceptive surfaces of human performance (Shedler, Mayman, Manis, 1993)" (Schneider, 2011, p. 36).

"Coyne believes the field's translation to practical applications has moved faster than the science and has been swept up by popular culture, self–help gurus and life coaches. He points to companies, including FedEx, Adobe and IBM, that are hiring "happiness coaches" to work with employees, schools that are embedding positive psychology in their curriculum and the Army, which is hoping to reach all its 1.1 million soldiers with its resiliency training. And he bristles at the books coming out of the field with titles, such as 'The How of Happiness'" (Azar, 2011, p. 34).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.6 Prescriptive issues / ethnocentric – Americentric position / problem of values

"the crux of the difficulty of assimilating 'mental health' to psychology is the fact that 'science has not yet learned how to deal surefootedly with values' (p. 673). Any progress toward clarity in psychological thinking about mental health, I am increasingly convinced, depends on our becoming clearer, as psychologists, about how we are to think about values" (Smith, 1961, p. 300).

"It is when we want to talk about positive criteria of psychological functioning that we encounter the value problem head on. A good starting point for the present discussion, then, is to ask why we ever got ourselves into this difficult, intellectually treacherous business of positive mental health. Are not the problems of mental disorder enough? Why should the mental health movement be impelled, as it has been since the clays of Clifford Beers (cf. Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, 1961), to extend itself to concern with the 'mental hygiene' of promoting positive mental health—in the absence of firm knowledge or clear guidelines?" (Smith, 1961, p. 300).

"Knowing that he lacks a scientifically sanctioned single set of mental health criteria, the psychologist in his consulting or service or educational relationships will hesitate to prescribe the nature of the good life to others in the name of psychology" (Smith, 1961, p. 304).

"What is to be avoided is the surreptitious advocacy of values disguised under presumptive scientific auspices. The lists of psychological desiderata that psychologists have continued to propose, each reflecting the value commitments of its proponent, have this drawback insofar as they are offered as 'criteria of positive mental health.' But there is nothing surreptitious, nothing illegitimate, in using evaluative dimensions such as those that appear on these lists to appraise behavior and personality, so long as the value position one takes is explicit. And there is much to be gained from psychological study of the empirical antecedents, consequences, and interrelations of realizing different values in the sphere of personality" (Smith, 1961, p. 306).

"Academic psychology is too exclusively Western. It needs to draw on Eastern sources as well. It turns too much to the objective, the public, the outer, the behavioral, and should learn more about the subjective, the private, the inner, the meditative. Introspection, thrown out as a technique, should be brought back into psychological research" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 30). Comment: in my opinion, this is an important message that Seligman did not appear to hear.

"studies suggest that what is currently known about the healthy self in the European American psychological literature may be primarily representative of reasonably well–educated, middle–class Americans. The healthy self may well assume a different form and have a different meaning among those whose daily lives foster and promote a self that is other than autonomous, agentic, and in control" [that is, for example, in comparison to many East Asian contexts] (Keough & Markus, 1998, p. 50).

Kendler (1999) builds the case that the holistic approach in which human values can be informed by science is false. He is critical of the idea "that values inhere in human experience; they have the quality of objective requiredness. By perceiving one's own values as empirical facts, one is afforded a sense and direction in one's life" (Kendler, 1999, p. 830). He goes on to reject the notion that we can move from what is by generating a conceptualization of what ought to be. "The argument that an enchanted view of science can reveal moral principles that are right for humankind fails to offer a coherent prescription as to how this goal is to be attained. The assumption that psychological facts will lead directly to moral truths is contradicted by the failure of is to logically generate ought. In addition, the premise that a monistic moral code exists that is 'right for humankind' is on equally shaky ground" (Kendler, 1999, p. 832).

"Mr. Seligman says that although he recognizes standards may vary across cultures, he believes in universals. 'We evolved biologically and created universal moral virtues.' Yet, he insists, 'I would not pretend to say what they are.'" (Ruark, 1999, p. 8).

"the study of moral development is emerging from a 30–year period during which post–Kantian conceptions held sway, and for some time to come nearly everything that is done within moral psychology will be framed as a response to them"  …  "Lawrence Kohlberg and his followers defined the moral domain so narrowly that only issues of rights and interpersonal justice qualified for inclusion. Following the Kantian tradition, they restricted the scope of moral development to formulating moral rules or principles and reasoning with them. Moral emotions, actions and personality were ruled out as topics of inquiry; virtues were actively derided; moral personality was dismissed as incoherent" (Campbell, Christopher, & Bickhard, 2002, p. 796).

"It is indeed hard to describe mature thought, feeling and action as they develop within disparate moral viewpoints. It is also hard to explain how the same general processes and constraints could lead to vastly different outcomes: different ways of thinking about moral issues, different sorts of moral personalities. Yet moral development, for different individuals, may be movement toward being a dutiful Christian, a ritual–observing Confucian, a perfect gentleman, an all–around caring person, one who balances all of the competing goods by exercising practical wisdom—or even a staunch gang loyalist who never rats to the cops" (Campbell, Christopher, & Bickhard, 2002, p. 798).

"In the eudaimonistic tradition, human beings ought to develop virtues because these are conducive to eudaimonia, or human flourishing—which has both individual and social aspects. Moreover, there is no algorithm for achieving human flourishing; each individual must acquire and exercise a form of expertise called phronesis—practical wisdom or prudence—in striking a balance of competing goods in a particular context" (Campbell, Christopher, & Bickhard, 2002, p. 799).

"Research in the positive youth development tradition has taken seriously the role of moral and religious beliefs in shaping children's identities and perspectives on the future" (Damon, 2004, p. 21).

"A person's use of moral beliefs to define the self is called a person's moral identity. When a person decides that 'the kind of person I am' or 'the kind of person I want to be' is dependent upon a moral belief (as opposed to, say, a physical characteristic such as being athletic, a material characteristic such as being rich, an intellectual characteristic such as being smart, and so on), the person has formed the basis of a moral identity" (Damon, 2004, pp. 21–22).

"The goals of positive science are therefore description and explanation as opposed to prescription. The underlying premise of positive social science is of course prescriptive in that it says that certain topics should be studied. But once the study begins, it needs to be hardheaded and rigorous. The routes to the good life are an empirical matter. Indeed, whether what seems positive is always desirable is also an empirical question" (Peterson, 2004a, pp. 188–189) versus "It might be helpful for the field of youth development—especially when it makes policy recommendations—to consider how to align the field with the values of the larger culture and to avoid the common threats to alignment" (Peterson, 2004a, p. 199).

"If asked what they most desire for their children, few parents would say in the abstract that falling short of diagnostic criteria is their primary wish. Rather, parents want their children to be safe, healthy, happy, moral, and fully engaged in life. These are the ultimate goals not only of all parents but of all societies" (Peterson, 2004b, p. 7).

From is to ought: "A young person's moral identity determines not merely what the person considers to be the right course of action but also why the person would decide that ' I myself must take this course.' One researcher wrote that if people see 'a value or a way of life as essential to their identity, then they feel that they ought to act accordingly' (Nisan 1996, 83)" (Damon, 2004, p. 22).

"Young people differ greatly in the degree to which they think of themselves in terms of moral beliefs and goals. This difference continues throughout life, with some people finding moral purposes to dedicate themselves to and others consigning moral concerns to a relatively marginal position in their lives. This difference may be determinative of life outcomes ranging from personal satisfaction (or "authentic happiness," as Martin Seligman calls it) to altruistic social behavior" (Damon, 2004, pp. 22–23).

"The once–accepted notion that it is necessary to be value neutral out of respect for the child's autonomy as well as for scientific objectivity has been largely discarded in recognition of children's undeniable need for moral and spiritual guidance and of science's inevitable grounding in values" (Damon, 2004, p. 23).

"The authors found that 6 core virtues recurred in these writings: courage, justice, humanity, temperance, wisdom, and transcendence. This convergence suggests a nonarbitrary foundation for the classification of human strengths and virtues" (Dahlsgaard, Peterson & Seligman, 2005, p. 203).

"The value–free assumption does not merely contradict many of the conclusions that positive psychologists wish to draw. It impedes the future growth of positive psychology, because it provides no incentive for developing the conceptual resources to recognize cultural values and assumptions" (Christopher & Campbell, 2008, p. 676).

"Given the inescapability of such cultural values and assumptions, we recommend giving up our pretensions to value–neutrality, instead adopting an approach that Bellah and his colleagues have termed social science as moral inquiry or social science as public philosophy (Bellah et al., 1985; Haan, Bellah, Rabinow, & Sullivan, 1983) . From this perspective, positive psychology, like the social sciences more broadly, would be acknowledged to be 'a tradition, or set of traditions, deeply rooted in the philosophical and humanistic (and, to more than a small extent, the religious) history of the West' (Bellah et al., 1985, p. 301)" (Christopher & Campbell, 2008, pps. 691–692).

"Positive psychology, under the prompting of Seligman, maintains that it is possible to pursue psychology as a kind of descriptive or objective science that avoids prescriptive recommendations. All of the articles in the special issue challenge this contention. Several argue that despite Seligman's efforts to be solely descriptive, he clearly endorses and promotes a number of substantive moral and cultural values and outlooks" (Christopher, Richardson & Slife, 2008, p. 558).

"[But] it is our contention that positive psychology is doomed to being narrow and ethnocentric as long as its researchers remain unaware of the cultural assumptions underlying their work" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 565).

"despite the best of intentions and efforts to be culture–free and descriptive, not prescriptive, positive psychology is pervaded by Western cultural values and assumptions" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 565).

While most psychologists agreed that the discipline should examine the brighter aspects of human functioning, many (e.g., Ahuvia, 2001; Bacigalupe, 2001; Brand, 2001; Compton, 2001; Walsh, 2001) expressed concern that the proposed science seemed ethnocentric and narrowly focused on the values of Western culture (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 563).

[recently published] Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (Peterson & Seligman, 2004), which purports to have identified positive traits that transcend temporal and cultural boundaries. Its authors claim that the effort to include only universally valued traits was motivated by the 'worry we would create a list of characteristics that reflected only our own take on the good life' (p. 20), and that the six virtues (courage, justice, humanity, temperance, wisdom, and transcendence) identified as ubiquitous, if not universal, provide a 'non–arbitrary basis for focusing on certain virtues rather than others' (p. 51). (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 563).

"positive psychology is based largely on dominant Western, and particularly American, ideologies of 'individualism' or 'liberal individualism.'" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 566).

Our historical reckoning has demonstrated positive psychology's indebtedness to a distinctly American strain of individualism as well as its kinship with earlier movements that have sought to promote health, happiness, and adjustment. We have also suggested that positive psychology solves some important problems for present–day psychologists, both researchers and practitioners. By problematizing new aspects of human 'being,' it stakes out new territory for psychology. Mapping the territory of virtue, 'flow,' flourishing, and happiness is said to demand expertise that only psychological researchers can offer. At the same time, attaining happiness, individual strength, and good character is purported to require the application of therapeutic and other technologies that only highly trained professionals can deliver (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 601).

"In our view, positive psychology's neglect of social context and its inadequate attention thus far to the experiences of diverse social groups, especially those in subordinated positions, result at least in part from its allegiance to certain epistemological and methodological commitments of North American psychology" (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 598).

"Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) and Peterson and Seligman (2004) argued that their reasoning, and their prescriptions for happiness and well–being, are based on empirical evidence, obtained via a strict adherence to the positivist scientific method, which is presumed to provide a high degree of transparency. 'What seemed to be lacking, however, was a vision that justified the attitude and the methodology. I was looking for a scientific approach to human behavior, but I never dreamed that this could yield a value–free understanding' (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 7). Far from 'yielding a value–free understanding,' positive psychology has unwittingly tied itself to a neo–liberal economic and political discourse, as can be seen from Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) and Peterson and Seligman's (2004) prescriptions, which are underpinned by a philosophy based on responsibility, moderation, and work ethic, all essential values for the effective operation of a neo–liberal economy" (McDonald & O'Callaghan, 2008, 138).

"The addition of a fourth life [form of happiness] should underscore that we are trying to describe, not prescribe, what people actually do to achieve well being (see below). Adding the fourth life in no way endorses this life nor do we suggest that you should divert your own path to well being to win more. Rather we include it to describe human approach behavior more comprehensively" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 14).

"Descriptive and Not Prescriptive. AH theory does not tell people what they ought to do. Its subject matter is indeed what is prescribed—across cultures and even universally in some cases—but its role is merely to describe accurately what is prescribed using rigorous classification, valid and reliable assessment, and the discovery of interventions that build what is prescribed in any given culture or across cultures" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 15).

"Yet Diener is also one of the most vocal advocates for using positive psychology to influence policy. The research should be used to create "good societies," he told the crowd at the IPPA meeting, to teach people what will truly make them happy and to help create the circumstances that will promote that authentic happiness" (See Ruark, 2009).

Despite Seligman's protests that he is value neutral here's what they say in reference to positive education: "We present the story of teaching these skills to an entire school—Geelong Grammar School—in Australia, and we speculate that positive education will form the basis of a 'new prosperity', a politics that values both wealth and well–being" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 293) …  . "Prosperity–as–usual has been equated with wealth. The time has come for a new prosperity, a prosperity that combines well–being with wealth. Learning to value and to attain this new prosperity must start early—in the formative years of schooling—and it is this new prosperity, kindled by Positive Education, that the world can now choose" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 308).

There seems to be little pretension of value neutrality here: "Public policy can be aimed at increasing general well–being and the successes or failures of policy can be measured quantitatively against this standard" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 308).

"Positive psychology cannot tell people what to value, but it can certainly shed light on the 'what' and the 'why' of whatever is valued. The resulting knowledge can and should inform how people might live" (Peterson, 2009, p. 4).

"Western cultures emphasize self–enhancement: Being able to achieve and to celebrate one's success is a major source of Westerners' self–esteem. Conversely, Eastern cultures emphasize fitting in and fulfilling obligations: Being able to critically reflect on and learn from one's past failures and to minimize future failures is a defining characteristic of a well–adjusted Easterner (Heine, Lehman, Markus & Kitayama, 1999; Heine et al., 2001)" (Wirtz, Chiu, Diener, & Oishi, 2009, p. 1169).

"The original idea behind the virtue (or Values–In–Action: VIA) project was to create a "manual of sanities," a guide to optimal development modeled on the established DSM and ICD manuals of human disorders. The end result was a detailed classificatory system of six core moral virtues (wisdom/knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence) as well as 24 subordinate empirically measurable character strengths through which the virtues manifest themselves (Peterson & Seligman, chaps 2–3)" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 305).

"In terms of flow, a good life is one that involves complete absorption in what one does" (Slade, 2010, p. 2).

"The dominant narrative about the beginnings of positive psychology has now been repeated in a great many texts since its first appearance in a special issue of the American Psychologist in 2000 (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This narrative glosses over the recent history of psychology, and tells a decidedly U.S.–centric version of world history. In doing so it positions the emergence of positive psychology into the world at the turn of the millennium as largely inevitable, and of course, highly necessary. American positive psychology addresses itself, in particular, to a specific characterization of this historical moment, in which positive psychology is a dire necessity. Thus, for all who herald its arrival, positive psychology is a field whose 'time has come.'" (Yen, 2010, p. 71).

"The implications [of this rhetoric] are clear— due to its advanced position relative to the rest of the world, America can, and indeed has a moral obligation to offer the "light" of science and civilization "to the world," and positive psychology is just such a science of high civilization" (Yen, 2010, p. 71).

Yen (2010) explains that the rationale for positive psychology began as a necessity to address the affluence and surplus in the United States. However, after September 11, the rationale changed and exploited a different view of America. In this post–9/11 view, positive psychology is equated with American security and Peterson & Park (2006, p. 359) is given in support: "any deliberate steps  …  to increase the experience of positive emotions  …  may be precisely what we need to create the conditions for national security."

Different characterizations of America are evoked depending upon how positive psychology is to be rationalized: "psychologists should be studying the "highest qualities" in life and peak experiences in times of plenty (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000); promoting resilience and positive emotion in times of adversity (Peterson & Park, 2006); and identifying good character strengths in times of moral destitution (Peterson & Seligman, 2004)" (Yen, 2010, p. 72).

"By its own definition, positive psychology is an objective, value–neutral science, and its proponents insist that all they are doing is describing what makes people happy rather than prescribing what people should be doing" (Yen, 2010, p. 74).

"Character strengths are the subset of personality traits that are morally valued. Like other personality traits, character strengths are dispositions that are manifest in people's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (Park & Peterson, 2005, 2008; Peterson & Seligman, 2004)" (Gillham, Adams–Deutsch, Werner, Reivich, Coulter–Heindl, Linkins, et al., 2011, p. 31). [Seligman is the last author].

I'm glad we have finally gotten this straightened out: "Achieving happiness is one of the major goals, if not the ultimate goal of human beings (Larsen & Eid, 2008)" (Giannopoulos & Vella–Brodrick, 2011, p. 95).

"Some of us seem to be thinking that our subject matter itself (people) is generally positive or admirable. This brings us to a second possible understanding of the 'positive' within positive psychology: that the scientist's subject matter is inherently good, desirable, or valuable (relative to an opposing perspective, that the subject matter might be inherently bad, undesirable, or not valuable)"  …  "It seems to me that this is where positive psychology is most vulnerable to going wrong, as the belief that humans are more good than bad could be a self-serving illusion or an ideological bias that clouds or completely blocks our view of half of human nature (i.e., the not-so-good part)" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 422).

"Even military psychologists studying brainwashing or prisoner intimidation techniques could be viewed as positive psychologists, if one accepts their claim that this knowledge is essential for protecting America's security. This is of course a debatable proposition, and here it may simply become a question of values and interpretations. (Which are correct and worthy?) The main point is that we are (nearly) all proceeding in good faith, doing what we think is right" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 423). [comment: let's hope that they are proceeding in good faith!]


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.7 Financial aspects/positive psychology as big business

Comment: very early on, Seligman was explicit about using positive psychology to try to rejuvenate the viability of the practice of psychology. "Can an economically viable profession of Positive psychology emerge outside the health care system?" (Seligman, 1998c).

"He [Seligman] raised millions of dollars of research money and funded 50 research groups involving 150 scientists across the world. Four positive psychology centres opened, decorated in cheerful colours and furnished with sofas and baby–sitters. There were get–togethers on Mexican beaches where psychologists would snorkel and eat fajitas, then form "pods" to discuss subjects such as wonder and awe. A thousand therapists were coached in the new science" (Wade, 2005).

"Seligman speculates that doing more exercises for longer would bring greater benefits. Hundreds of thousands of people have registered with his website www.reflectivehappiness. com — where, for $10 a month, they are given a happiness programme including instruction in a package of positive exercises" (Wade, 2005). From the website: "his website has almost 1,975,000 users from around the world, and you are welcome to use all of the resources available here for free." https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx

"Many believe that the field of psychotherapy can survive only if it reinvents itself  …  Positive psychotherapy (aka applied positive practice) is another invention that addresses the threat of professional extinction" (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 599).

"By problematizing new aspects of human 'being,' it stakes out new territory for psychology. Mapping the territory of virtue, 'flow,' flourishing, and happiness is said to demand expertise that only psychological researchers can offer. At the same time, attaining happiness, individual strength, and good character is purported to require the application of therapeutic and other technologies that only highly trained professionals can deliver" (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 601).

"The figures are impressive. The National Institute of Mental Health has given more than $226–million in grants to positive–psychology researchers in the past 10 years, beginning with just under $4–million in 1999 and reaching more than nine times that amount in 2008. The John Templeton Foundation has long supported the work, and recently awarded Seligman a grant of nearly $6–million to encourage collaborations between positive psychologists and neuroscientists. Backing has also come from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others" (Ruark, 2009).

"Taken together, these historical narratives help to stake out a new domain within an already crowded psychological market, but one in which human flourishing, as an object of psychological knowledge, becomes amenable to study only by highly trained psychological scientists or experts (Becker & Marecek, 2008). In the face of a resurgent biologized psychiatry that has threatened the legitimacy of psychology, this represents a vast new arena of opportunity for intervention by psychological professionals" (Yen, 2010, p. 74).

"one of the motives that prompted Marty Seligman to change psychology from deficit-orientation to strength-orientation was that he believed psychologists could contribute much more than what they were doing at the time. 'There is so much work for psychologists to do,' he kept saying, 'and so few jobs for psychologists.' I thought this was a perceptive observation, one that added an important reason to push for change.
So, 10 years later, Seligman's wish (and mine) has been in part realized. Hundreds of new life coaches are spreading the good news of positive psychology far and wide, and presumably making a living at it. The problem is that when a person charges for a specific service, he or she cannot be as critical of it, lest the clients begin to suspect that the goods provided are not as advertised. So life coaches need theories of happiness, and interventions that produce them, that are beyond change and improvement. Whether they can resist this pressure or not remains to be seen" (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 2011, p. 4).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.8 The role of research

Maslow felt that the study of psychology should be based upon philosophy, and especially, the study of ethics and values. "Unless psychologists acquaint themselves with the heights of philosophical thought, they tend to remain arrogant rather than humble, trivial rather than profound, repetitious rather than creative" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 22). The approach to the study of psychology should include aspects of "the highest and deepest experiences of which human being is capable–what I call the peak experiences" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 22). Maslow bemoaned the fact that psychologists turned to the physical sciences for their philosophy, thus creating a shallow and fragmented research agenda.

"American psychology is particularly behavioristic, concentrating on overt actions. This originates in a praiseworthy, though naive, effort to be 'scientific.' Of course it is the hope and goal of scientists to demonstrate, to prove, and to repeat the experiment in another laboratory. Yet we must face the hard fact that this is an ultimate rather than an immediate goal. By confining ourselves to the observation of external behavior, we overlook all sorts of human activities which do not show themselves externally in a simple form" Behaviorism originated in a sensible reaction against anthropomorphizing animal psychology, but the pendulum has swung too far, and instead it has rodentomorphized human psychology, studying the person as if he were just a complicated white rat. It is indeed a mistake to attribute human motives to laboratory animals, but is it a mistake to attribute human motives to humans?" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 30).

Subjective Happiness Scale developed by Lyubomirsky and Lepper (1999).

"And in this quest for what is best, positive psychology does not rely on wishful thinking, self–deception, or hand waving; instead, it tries to adapt what is best in the scientific method to the unique problems that human behavior presents in all its complexity" (Seligman, 2002, p. 4).

Happiness formula. "Although much of the research that underlies this book is based in statistics, a user–friendly book in psychology for the educated layperson can have at most one equation. Here, then, is the only equation I ask you to consider:

H = S + C + V

where H is your enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control" (Seligman, 2002a, p. 45)

"By modeling its methods on those of negative psychology, positive psychology is already producing a plethora of redundant theories of human strengths and virtues" (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, p. 167).

"In its short history, positive psychology has already inherited negative psychology's worst methodological habits. Its enthusiastic reliance on nomothetic study designs and its frenetic generation of redundant findings leave us skeptical about a new positive psychology that hopes, based on its empirical methods, to distinguish itself from long-defunct positive psychologies" (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, p. 167).

"One of the most distinguishing features of positive psychology is an insistence that research must follow the standards of traditional scientific investigations" (Compton, 2005, p. 12).

"One of the most important ideas in positive psychology is what Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, Schkade, and Seligman call the "happiness formula:" H=S+C+V The level of happiness that you actually experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) plus the conditions of your life (C) plus the voluntary activities (V) you do. (Haidt, 2006, p. 94).

"It needs to be acknowledged that there is a general difference in research style, namely humanistic psychology's penchant for mostly qualitative work (Fischer, 2006a) as opposed to positive psychology's penchant for mostly quantitative research (Ong & Dulmen, 2007), which is more implicitly obvious rather than explicitly stated in the positive psychology literature" (Friedman, 2008, p. 120).

Csikszentmihalyi (2000b) contends that the utilization of empirical methodologies not only distinguishes positive psychology from previous examinations of human flourishing (e.g., the humanist movement of the 1960s), but also renders it superior to all other attempts to determine the sources of optimal human functioning, as history and philosophy are 'too subjective ... dependent on faith or ... dubious assumptions; they [history and philosophy] lacked the clear–eyed skepticism and the slow cumulative growth that I [Csikszentmihályi] associated with science' (p. 7). (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 564).

"Positive psychology asserts to being a unique approach that differentiates itself from its main predecessor, humanistic psychology, by embracing quantitative empirical research that humanistic psychology supposedly eschews." (Friedman, 2009).

"our findings suggest that a longer and more thorough battery of items [as opposed to short–form or aggregate measures] may be necessary in order to accurately model the complex latent structure of well–being" (Gallagher, Lopez, & Preacher, 2009, p. 1043).

For a similar list, see (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009).

"positive psychologists want to preserve the austere assumption that science (including psychological science) "must be descriptive and not prescriptive" (Seligman, 2002, p. 129): in particular, "descriptive of what is ubiquitous" rather than normative (Peterson & Seligman, 2004, p. 51)" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 308).

"At one extreme, Martin Seligman calls for experimental studies with randomized assignment and controls for the placebo effect. He also advocates longitudinal experimental design; in fact, one distinction that he makes between humanistic and positive psychology is the lack of rigor and experimental research undergirding humanistic psychology …  His colleague, Christopher Peterson, has a much more relaxed and inclusive view of the scientific method" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 431). Comment: it would be interesting to see how Seligman justifies his extensive use of questionnaires and surveys that are done over the web.


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.9 Positive versus negative psychology

"We have come to see that statistical notions of 'normality' are no real help in giving psychological meaning to mental health and illness: they beg the question or fail to come to grips with it. We have become suspicious of the once regnant concept of adjustment, as it has fallen into disrepute at the hands of social critics and moralists (e.g., Riesman, 1950) who see it as a pseudoscientific rationalization for conformist values, and of psychological theorists (e.g., White, 1959) who are challenging the sufficiency of the equilibrium model in which it is rooted. And from many quarters we encounter the call for a more positive view of mental health than is involved in the mere absence of manifest mental disorder. Since the appearance of Jahoda's useful book (1958) that reviewed the considerable array of proposals toward such a conception of optimal human functioning, the flow of suggestions has not abated" (Smith, 1961, p. 299).

"The various lists of criteria that have been proposed for positive mental health reshuffle overlapping conceptions of desirable functioning without attaining agreement—or giving much promise that agreement can be reached" (Smith, 1961, p. 299).

"Psychology ought to become more positive and less negative. It should have higher ceilings, and not be afraid of the loftier possibilities of the human being" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 27).

"Myers reports that for every article on positive emotions (joy, happiness or life satisfaction) there are 21 articles on negative emotions (anger, anxiety and depression) (Myers, 1999)" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s163).

"psychology's preoccupation with identifying, undoing and preventing damage has blinded us to human strength. Our theories are powerful in predicting failure, hopelessness and despair, but are impotent when it comes to explaining hope, persistence, creativity, compassion, love and the many other qualities that make life worthwhile. Worse, psychology's focus on protection from damage is harmful. It has contributed to a culture of victimology and may be responsible for the widespread epidemic of depression in our young people." (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s163).

"As a society, our concern with damage has turned into a preoccupation with protecting our children. We cringe when we imagine our children failing and becoming immersed in self–doubt and hopelessness. The desire to protect is, in part, the basis for the self–esteem movement that emerged in California in the 1960s. This movement's primary goal is to bolster children's feelings of self– worth and insulate them from experiences that might shatter their self–confidence" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s166).

"The [self–esteem] movement has a harmful edge. First, it ignores the value of negative emotions. Emotions like anger, sadness, fear and shame help us make sense of our experiences in the world. Low self–esteem also can work in this way. When we feel badly, it is a sign that we are doing badly in the world. We are not accomplishing what we would like to at work, at school, with friends or in romantic relationships. This is a signal that change is in order. Genuine self–esteem is gained through success in the world. Happiness or self–confidence that is achieved simply through dulling or avoiding painful emotions is not grounded in reality" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s166).

"The second problem is that the self–esteem movement produces a self–confidence that is fragile. It has no substantive foundation" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s167).

"Third, a focus on buffering self–esteem may prevent individuals from engaging in experiences that can lead to true happiness or joy. The most satisfying moments in our lives are often times when we achieved something (success, affection) after struggling and working for it for some time" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s167).

"Two dangerous assumptions underlie our culture of victimology: (1) trauma always leads to serious damage and (2) damage always reflects the presence of trauma. These assumptions lead us to excuse heinous crimes as natural responses to misfortune. They led many well–meaning therapists in the late '80s and early '90s to attribute client's problems to early abuse and to search for repressed memories of that abuse when none were spontaneously reported" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s168).

"There is evidence that our society's concern with protection from damage has backfired. We now have an epidemic of depression in our young people, young people living in the most privileged time and place in human history. The incidence of depression has risen dramatically over this century" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s168).

"We have argued that psychology as a field has been preoccupied with the negative side of life and has left us with a view of human qualities that is warped and one–sided. Psychology is literally 'half–baked'. We need to bake the other half now" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s172).

"the road to positive psychology should pass through the fields of psychopathology, psychotherapy, and mental health. Positive psychology research should not be limited to healthy populations but should also include clinical samples" (Lampropoulos, 2001, p. 88).

"It is argued in this article that ironically, a better understanding of the depth and breadth of a new field called the 'psychology of loss' will provide this new field of positive psychology with some of its greatest lessons" (Harvey, 2001, p. 838).

"Psychology after World War II became a science largely devoted to healing. It concentrated on repairing damage using a disease model of human functioning. This almost exclusive attention to pathology neglected the idea of a fulfilled individual and a thriving community, and it neglected the possibility that building strength is the most potent weapon in the arsenal of therapy. The aim of positive psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life. To redress the previous imbalance, we must bring the building of strength to the forefront in the treatment and prevention of mental illness" (Seligman, 2002, p. 3).

"The message of the positive psychology movement is to remind our field that it has been deformed. Psychology is not just the study of disease, weakness, and damage; it also is the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is wrong; it also is building what is right. Psychology is not just about illness or health; it also is about work, education, insight, love, growth, and play" (Seligman, 2002b, p. 3).

"Working exclusively on personal weakness and on damaged brains, and deifying the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), in contrast, has rendered science poorly equipped to do effective prevention" (Seligman, 2002, p. 5).

Comment on above: as McDonald and O'Callaghan (2008, p. 136) have noted, much of the criticism of the DSM has to do with the appropriateness of applying a classification and categorization system to mental conditions and these same concerns and criticisms would also apply to the presentation of strengths and virtues presented by Peterson and Seligman (2004).

These important comments also support Dąbrowski's view: "There is much ferment in the subfield of personality about just how much change is possible in an adult. This became evident in a recent debate in Psychological Inquiry between Lewis (2001) and Caspi and Roberts (2001). Lewis argued that there is very little stability over time, and Caspi and Roberts took the position, which makes good sense to me, that once adulthood is reached there is considerable stability but one must still allow for modest change. A major issue to be emphasized, then, has to do with the conditions that favor change. For the stable adult, major personality change may require a trauma, a personal crisis, or a religious conversion. Abandoning unserviceable goals and counterproductive ways of coping with life in favor of more effective ways of coping is very difficult without the mobilization that crisis can produce. Even experts cannot agree about the prospects for change on the basis of evidence that, unfortunately, is not clear even when it comes to the personality changes sought in psychotherapy (VandenBos, 1996)" (Lazarus, 2003, p. 105).

"We do not view positive psychology as a replacement for psychology as usual, or as a "paradigm shift"; rather we view positive psychology merely as a normal science supplement to the hard–won gains of "negative" psychology" (Seligman & Pawelski, 2003, p. 162)

"Is this movement in science [positive psychology] worth the investment of time, energy, and research effort? I believe that it is, because I believe that psychology should be about more than repairing what is wrong. It should also be about identifying and nurturing what is good" (Seligman, 2003, p. xi).

"Psychology has, for the past 50 years, been almost entirely about remediation, about repairing the worst in life. It has turned its back on the goals of understanding what makes people happy, what builds positive character, and what makes life worth living. When psychology ignores these goals, it can languish just as the social sciences and many individuals are languishing" (Seligman, 2003, p. xiii).

"The message of positive psychology is to remind our field that it has been half–baked. We have made real progress on the study of mental illness and the repair of damage. But we have made little progress in so many other areas. Psychology is not just the study of disease, weakness, and damage. It is also the study of happiness, strength, and virtue" (Seligman, 2003, p. xiv).

"But because psychology has been a profession and a science focused on what was wrong and what was weak, we know almost nothing about the strengths and virtues. So if we want to succeed in prevention, we need a science to illuminate strengths and virtues" (Seligman, 2003, p. xvi).

"By asserting that human strengths and weaknesses are qualitatively distinct, positive psychology has rediscovered the worldview of the 19th century cloaked as 21st century perspicacity. This qualitative distinction between strengths and weaknesses is not only regressive but genuinely surprising, because many investigators now identified with positive psychology have justified their use of convenience samples such as college students to study psychopathological processes such as depression by invoking the notion that psychopathology and mental health represent a continuum (Tennen, Eberhardt, & Affleck, 1999)" (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, pp. 165-166).

"If positive psychology's path is going to be, as its proponents assert, independent of current work in the study of negative experiences, we cannot imagine how this emergent field will tackle complex human strengths such as the ability to experience emotional ambivalence and endure negative emotions when necessary, and how it will study virtues such as the capacity to make amends" (Tennen & Affleck, 2003, p. 167).

Harvey and Pauwels (2004) noted that modesty and humility were two character strengths not related to life satisfaction implying that the individuals in the study display elevated self–esteem and consider themselves special. "We would posit that humility and modesty are human qualities very likely derived from the experience of loss and coping with this experience. The authors [Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004] note the possible special qualities of the Website sampled in their research. We might wonder whether a Web site such as that for "Compassionate Friends" (parents who have lost children) might yield similar evidence?" (Harvey & Pauwels, 2004, p. 621).

"However, positive psychology does not imply that the rest of psychology is negative, although it is understandable that the name may imply that to some people. In fact, the large majority of the gross academic product of psychology is neutral, focusing on neither wellbeing nor distress. Positive psychology grew largely from the recognition of an imbalance in clinical psychology, in which most research does indeed focus on mental illness" (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 104).

Comment on the above: Gable and Haidt (2005, p. 104) appear to present a logical contradiction when they state that "We would like to invite you to consider getting involved too, because if all goes well, positive psychology may not be around for much longer. If the positive psychology movement is successful in rebalancing psychology and expanding its gross academic product, it will become obsolete." The implication here is clearly that psychology requires rebalancing by the positive psychology movement and that if it is successful in this rebalancing, psychology will be restored and the positive psychology movement will become obsolete. However, the authors go on to suggest that "positive psychology does not imply that the rest of psychology is negative" (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 104) and they further state that this interpretation "is unfortunate and, more important, untrue, as we hope what we have written here already demonstrates" (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 107). If it's untrue that psychology is negative, then what is wrong with psychology that it needs rebalancing?

Comment: It seems disappointingly arbitrary and reductionistic that Seligman has framed positive psychology as a corrective to what he has perceived as psychology's historical focus on the negative (Held, 2005). This "either or" dichotomy leaves little room for individual differences or subtlety in diagnosis. Does negative have to be negative for everyone and positive be positive for everyone? This dichotomizing also flies in the face the growing body of literature on posttraumatic growth; if, at least in some cases, growth can result from trauma, then the dichotomy of positive and negative psychology becomes largely meaningless.

Comment: Seligman makes this extremely positive [perhaps even unrealistic] appraisal of the progress that "negative psychology" has made, almost to imply that this progress is sufficient and now we can move on to study something else. I also note that this is self–referential: "At least 14 disorders, previously intractable, have yielded their secrets to science and can now be either cured or considerably relieved (Seligman, 1994)" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6).

Here is a slightly different version of the above: "In 1946, there were no effective treatments for any of the psychological disorders, whereas now we can cure two and treat another 12 via psychotherapy and/or pharmacology (Seligman 1993)" (Seligman, Parks, & Steen, 2004, p. 1379).

"Positive psychologists trace the "misanthropic bias" (Csikszentmihalyi, 2003, p. 129) in contemporary psychology to the unhappy marriage of psychology with psychiatry that took place in the wake of the traumas of World War II." (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 297).

"To emphasize positive psychology does not imply that the rest of psychology is negative. We do not deny sick, unpleasant, or negative aspects of life. Rather, we seek to shift attention from the negative to the positive" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 428).

"It is time to correct the imbalance between considering only negative behavior of individuals and institutions and consider the human potential needed for well–being, satisfaction, and meaningful aspects of work and life. The most basic assumption of positive psychology is that human goodness and excellence are as authentic and common as are disease, disorder, and distress" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 428).

"Psychological traits and processes are not inherently positive or negative; instead, whether psychological characteristics promote or undermine well–being depends on the context in which they operate. If true, this principle indicates a need to think beyond positive psychology" (McNulty & Fincham, 2011, p. 1).

"For many positive psychology researchers, there is often a one-sided focus on desirable-sounding constructs and topics, with new, exotic terms like self-compassion or state cheerfulness proliferating. Surely "negative" human experiences and characteristics, such as regret or perfectionism, are not just bad things to be avoided and minimized—they may also be essential challenges, springboards to higher peaks. Just as the possible benefits of the bad often seem neglected, the limits of the good are rarely considered. Too much curiosity could lead to obsessions and nosiness; too little guilt could lead to antisocial behavior and a failure to learn from mistakes; and too much purpose in life could lead to monomaniacal obsession. To date, positive psychology researchers have had little to say about the yin and yang of positive and negative, the dialectical tension between stress and growth" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, pp. 9-10).

"An unfortunate implication of the term 'positive psychology' is that it suggests that some areas or eras of psychology may be 'negative' psychology. This can lead to an unfortunate dynamic: nobody wants to think they are a negative psychologist, so they must either join the bandwagon ('I too am a positive psychologist!') or deny it ('Positive psychology is wrong and harmful!'). My position is that all fields of psychology are positive sciences to the extent that the derived knowledge can be used to solve problems and to improve what is in need of improvement" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 423).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.10 Positive psychology and definitions of mental health

The association of happiness with the definition of mental health has a long history. For example, in 1941, Cantor made this observation: "If we examine the many popular definitions of a normal mind, i.e., the attempt to classify mental traits common to most people, we find that they fall into two principal groups: those using happiness as a standard, and those depending upon the criterion of adjustment to reality" (p. 676).

Traditionally, mental health has been defined as the absence of symptomatology. Jahoda presented a major work in 1958 outlining a positive approach to the definition of mental health. "It would seem, consequently, to be more fruitful to tackle the concept of mental health in its more positive connotation, noting, however, that the absence of disease may constitute a necessary, but not a sufficient, criterion for mental health" (Jahoda, 1958, pp. 14-15). This is the context that Dąbrowski falls into. Dąbrowski's concern was that definitions of optimal development that simply referred to the absence of illness were insufficient to capture the range and breadth of features that seem to qualify human authenticity and exemplary development. Dąbrowski explicitly endorsed and used Jahoda's criteria in endorsing a positive approach to mental health.

The World Health Organization has adopted a positive definition of mental health.

"Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The WHO constitution states: 'Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.' An important consequence of this definition is that mental health is described as more than the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for individual well-being and the effective functioning of a community" (World Health Organization, 2010, paras. 1-2).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.11 Positive psychology in relation to happiness

"Man is fond of counting his troubles but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it." Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Historical overview:

There have been two rival views of happiness for many centuries: one is the eudaimonic, the other is the hedonic.

The eudaimonic[YOU–dee–mon–ick] claims that a human being's primary purpose in life is to be good and that being good is either its own reward or leads to happiness (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and Boethius). If we concentrate on being good, we will be happy and flourish – well–being is the outcome of positive goal pursuits.

Eudaimonia: [YOU–dee–moan–ee–ah] a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous.

Eudaimonic models:

Hedonic [HEE–don–ic] well–being: the pleasant life; of, relating to, or marked by pleasure. Claims that our primary purpose is to enjoy pleasures of various kinds (physical and mental) and avoid pain, suffering, anxiety, and discomfort. Concentrating on being good is no fun, and happiness lies in pleasures and having fun while avoiding pain and boredom. See Synnestvedt (2006, p. 287).

Hedonic models:

[Phronesis—practical wisdom or prudence]

For reviews of more recent literature on happiness, see Diener, Suh and Lucas (1999) and for reviews of older literature on happiness research, see Wilson (1967).

Research asking people how happy they are has a long history, I will only highlight a couple of representative early examples.

"Do you consider your life on the whole (a) happy, satisfactory, successful; (b) unhappy, unsatisfactory, unsuccessful? In each case why?" These questions seem contemporary, as if they could have been taken from any one of today's modern studies. In fact, this is from Davis (1929, p. 89).

"In this study, the individual is called happy if he believes himself happier than most others of like age and sex, if he believes his prevailing moods cheerful, his spirits high, his satisfactions lasting, his days full of interesting and amusing things, his prevalent attitudes described by such words as 'enthusiastic,' 'jolly,' 'tranquil,' 'joyful,' 'fortunate,' or 'well-integrated.' If he reports splendid satisfaction with his health, his work, his love adjustment, his friends, hobbies, and religion, these likewise contribute to his 'happiness' score" (Watson, 1930, 79).

"We have selected as the theme of our study that aspect of the successful marriage which may be designated as marital happiness, and we wish to ascertain, if possible, what psychological factors are demonstrably associated with this state" (Terman, 1938, p. 2).

"Between 1946 and 1977 nearly fifty surveys have asked national samples to evaluate how happy they are. Only one of the more refined measures reaches back before the I960's (Cantril's self-anchoring striving scales start in 1959) and most have been developed only in the last half-dozen years" (Smith, 1979, p. 18).

"To summarize, it appears that happiness rose between the late forties and the late fifties. During the sixties there appears to have been a decline in happiness, although at a slower rate than the rise in the fifties. This drop reached its bottom by the early seventies. The trend since then is hard to separate from the variation, but it appears that happiness has shown no clear trend" (Smith, 1979, p. 29).

"We know, for example, that national surveys (Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, in press) show that during the period between 1957 and 1972, when most of the economic and social indicators were moving rapidly upward, the proportion of the population of this country who described themselves as 'very happy' declined steadily, and this decline was most apparent among the part of the population that was most affluent. A recent study (Schneider, 1975) has shown that in a comparison of 13 American cities, the correlation between the objective characteristics of the cities and a measure of life satisfaction reported from surveys of the residents of each city was essentially zero" (Campbell, 1976, p. 118).

 Three approaches: During the early 1960s Hadley Cantril used his self anchoring scale extensively. He used an approach that "conceptualized well-being as a cognitive experience in which the individual compared his perception of his present situation to a situation which he aspired to, expected, or felt he deserved. The discrepancy between his perceived life and his aspired-to life is expressed in a measure of satisfaction-dissatisfaction, and greater satisfaction is taken as an indicator of a sense of well-being" (Campbell, 1976, p. 119). Campbell (1976) also notes there have been hundreds of studies looking at the cognitive measures of satisfaction with work and marriage.
The second approach or large-scale studies based upon affective aspects of experience, including Bradburn's affect balance scale. Bradburn looked at positive and negative episodes occurring in respondents' lives.
Third, there have been studies based upon psychiatric indices.

"The attraction of the concept of happiness is certainly great, coming as it does from the early Greek identification of happiness with the good life and having as it does almost universal currency as a recognized, if not uniquely important, component of the quality of life experience. It is one of those indispensable psychological concepts, like intelligence, morale, prejudice, mental health, and others, that have meaning to almost everyone but are difficult to define" (Campbell, 1976, p. 119).

"Reported happiness is highest among young people and declines with age; general satisfaction is lowest among young people and increases with age" (Campbell, 1976, p. 120).

"It would appear that we have come to the point where we must stop using the word happiness indiscriminately to refer to any aspect of experience we regard as positive and begin to work seriously on the problem of identifying the major dimensions of the experience of well-being, developing instruments to measure them, analyzing their relationships to each other, and building time series that make possible the study of the nature of change" (Campbell, 1976, p. 120).

"typically, happiness is equated with a good life. It is difficult to argue against the importance of happiness to the good life. Aristotle argued that all goals were valued only to the extent that they related ultimately to happiness. All other goals are essentially sought in the service of the happiness they promise" (King & Pennebaker, 1998, p. 53).

"The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self–definitions than to pursue good ones" (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001 p. 323).

"positive psychology holds that the scientific understanding of subjective well–being—pleasure, contentment, joy, mirth, ecstasy, ebullience, and the like—is important. We believe, however, that positive psychology is not only the study of positive feeling but also the study of positive traits and positive institutions. Within the study of positive emotion itself we divide it into emotion about the past (satisfaction, contentment, pride, and the like); the present, which is commonly termed happiness by the layperson (pleasure, ecstasy, joy, and the like); and the future (hope, optimism, trust, faith, and the like). Seen this way, although happiness in the lay sense is one important subject of positive psychology, it forms only one third of the area of positive emotion, which in turn forms only one third of the domain of positive psychology" (Seligman & Pawelski, 2003, p. 160).

"Our thesis is that well-being should become a primary focus of policymakers, and that its rigorous measurement is a primary policy imperative.... [We] propose that well-being ought to be the ultimate goal around which economic, health, and social policies are built" (Diener and Seligman, 2004, pp. 1-2).

"Also referred to as 'the science of happiness,' positive psychology is striving to be rigorous and evidence based in its endeavor to identify interventions that promote mental health and quality of life" (Hershberger, 2005, p. 630).

"It is probably true to say that contemporary literature on wellbeing largely ignores the contributions of humanistic and existential thinkers like Maslow, Rogers, Jung and Allport73 It also doesn't pay much attention to the complexity of philosophical conceptions of happiness, even though philosophy has dealt with this subject since long before psychology even existed" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 39).

"It is important to be clear about what Aristotle meant by eudaimonia. This Greek word is often translated as "happiness," but it can more accurately be translated as well–being, flourishing, or living a good life. Aristotle's concept of happiness includes such matters as one's status in society, health, luck, and virtuous acts as well as positive feelings" (Synnestvedt, 2006, p. 286).

"A crucial task for any theory of well–being is to give a credible accounting of the value of pleasant and unpleasant experiences, especially suffering" (Haybron, 2007, p. 12).

"whether an individual is happy also depends on whether others in the individual 's social network are happy. Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people. The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people" (Fowler, & Christakis, 2008, p. 7).

"factor analyses for the models of hedonic, eudaimonic, and social well–being supported the proposed factor structures for each of these models" (Gallagher, Lopez, & Preacher, 2009, p. 1042).

Diener's model (hedonic well–being consists of positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction) was supported, "it appears that negative affect is in fact a component of hedonic well–being and the larger structure of well–being. It would therefore appear that just as high negative affect and low positive affect are together indicative of mental illnesses such as Major Depressive Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000), low negative affect and high positive affect may together be indicative of flourishing mental health" (Gallagher, Lopez, & Preacher, 2009, p. 1043).

"when the 14 components of well–being are assessed using reliable measures, they can be successfully integrated into a hierarchical structure of well–being that maintains the theoretical distinctions between the hedonic, eudaimonic, and social dimensions of well–being" (Gallagher, Lopez, & Preacher, 2009, p. 1043).


Hierarchical structure of well–being model containing three second–order factors (hedonic well–being, social well–being, eudaimonic well–being). PA=Positive Affect, NA=Negative Affect, LS=Life Satisfaction, Acc=Social Acceptance, Act=Social Actualization, Coh=Social Coherence, Con=Social Contribution, Int=Social Integration, Aut=Autonomy, EM=Environmental Mastery, PG=Personal Growth, PR=Positive Relations with Others, PL=Purpose in Life, SA=Self–Acceptance. (Gallagher, Lopez, & Preacher, 2009, p. 1035).

"The secret of happiness is the ability to find joy in another's joy, the desire to make other people happy. To experience true happiness, we need to learn to forget ourselves, because self-centeredness and happiness are mutually exclusive. We need instead to be generative; we need to care about others. Many of us have seen this phenomenon in action: when we bring sunshine into the lives of others, we get some rays in return. Even the littlest things can produce moments of happiness—a smile, a hug, and a heartfelt thank-you. These little gestures can turn into glorious feelings for both giver and recipient" (Kets de Vries, 2009, p. 132).

"eudaimonism. Although the noun is usually translated as happiness, it might more properly, if less efficiently, be translated as 'the feelings accompanying behavior consistent with one's true potential.' The daimon in eudaimonia—"spirit"—signifies that which strives to create direction and meaning in our lives" (Kets de Vries, 2009, p. 219).

"Positive education is defined as education for both traditional skills and for happiness" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 293).

"'Happiness' is too worn and too weary a term to be of much scientific use, and the discipline of Positive Psychology divides it into three very different realms, each of which is measurable and, most importantly, each of which is skill–based and can be taught (Seligman, 2002). The first is hedonic: positive emotion (joy, love, contentment, pleasure etc.). A life led around having as much of this good stuff as possible, is the 'Pleasant Life'. The second, much closer to what Thomas Jefferson and Aristotle sought, is the state of flow, and a life led around it is the 'Engaged Life'."  …  The third realm in the framework of Positive Psychology is the one with the best intellectual provenance, the Meaningful Life …  . From a Positive Psychology perspective, meaning consists in knowing what your highest strengths are, and then using them to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self (Seligman, 2002)" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 296).

"Positive psychologists follow in the footsteps of most of their psychological colleagues in using the terms "happiness" and "well–being" interchangeably. Nevertheless, "happiness" seems to be the preferred label" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 298).

Kristjansson describes the three major approaches to happiness in positive psychology, number one: "Hedonistic accounts consider happiness to be identifiable with pleasure as a raw, undifferentiated, subjective feeling. The happy life is the life of such maximized pleasures" Number two, life satisfaction accounts. These two approaches are often seen together and are considered subjective measurements simply asking an individual how he or she feels about him or herself and are open to issues like self–deception. The third approach, eudaimonistic accounts, beginning with Aristotle was that happiness must be measured objectively. "according to Aristotle, it is empirically true that the flourishing of human beings consists of the realization of intellectual and moral virtues and in the fulfillment of their other specifically human physical and mental capabilities." "Aristotle's eudaimonia is an explicitly moral notion, not conceptually, but empirically: it is, in fact, impossible to achieve eudaimonia without being morally good—without actualizing the moral virtues" positive psychology takes the position that happiness must be plural and combine these three approaches (the balanced view described by Haidt, 2006). (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 300).

"There is much to admire in the happiness theory of positive psychology. It rejects the overly quick equation of happiness with pleasure or life satisfaction and invokes a nuanced classificatory system of different pathways to happiness. Writ large, it happily does not try to make the complicated look simple. The presentation of the theory is beset with ambiguities, however, as its proponents distance their own personal views from the official doctrine" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 304).

"Perhaps genuine happiness is not something you aim at, but is, as Frankl once noted, a byproduct of a life well lived – and a life well lived does not settle on the programmed or neatly calibrated" (Schneider, 2011, p. 35).

"While acknowledging the need to address the negatives, the dominant message of PP (e.g., Fredrickson, 2009; Lyubomirsky, 2008; Peterson, 2006a) still maintains that negatives will go away if people simply focus on enhancing the positives. However, too much emphasis on positive affect as the answer to all ills can be counterproductive because negative emotions, such as a guilt, regret, frustration, and anger, can all motivate us toward positive change. Future research needs to test the hypothesis that the development of character strengths and resilience may benefit from prior experience of having overcome negative conditions" (Wong, 2011, pp. 69–70).

"The current findings demonstrate that under certain circumstances, valuing happiness may be self–defeating. Leading people to value happiness more made them feel less happy. This effect was found in a positive emotional context, but not in a negative emotional context, because in positive contexts, expectations for happiness are high and it is difficult to attribute failure to be happy to one's circumstances. Therefore, in positive contexts, people are more likely to feel disappointed in their level of happiness and, ultimately, feel less happy" (Mauss, Tamir, Anderson, & Savino, 2011, p. 3).

In a book review of John F. Schumaker's In search of happiness: Understanding an endangered state of mind, Wong writes: "Schumaker has debunked the myth surrounding the growing happiness enterprise. His strongest critique is directed against the consumer culture which deals a double–whammy to human happiness. First, it creates false needs and discontent. Second, it destroys the conditions that are conducive to human happiness. Therefore, all the prescriptions by happiness gurus have little value, unless we are willing to transform our consumer culture and address the fundamental issues about the human existence. According to Schumaker, happiness has more to do with culture than genetics and behaviors. Just as fish need to live in water and birds need an open sky, human beings need to be in their right elements in order to be happy and healthy. Such a simple truth is often overlooked by positive psychologists" (Wong, n.d.).

"Positive childhood behaviour was associated with midlife well–being; specifically a low probability of lifetime emotional problems, satisfaction with work, a high frequency of contact with friends or family and engagement in social activities. Happy children in this cohort were no more likely to marry, but significantly more likely to divorce. These associations were independent of childhood social class, childhood cognition, educational attainment, midlife occupational social class and extraversion" (Richards & Huppert, 2011, p. 75).

"The results supported the hypothesis that well–being would increase for all intervention group participants, especially for those in the meaning, engagement, pleasure and combination groups. However, contrary to expectations, the no intervention control group also increased slightly in well–being" (Giannopoulos, & Vella–Brodrick, 2011, p. 102).

Self fulfilling prophecy: in explaining the above result, why the control group receiving no intervention increased their happiness, the authors gave the following explanation. "It is possible that being involved in a study about 'happiness' may have alerted participants to the topic and raised expectations that their happiness levels will improve, at least for the daily events group. In the case of the control group, although no actual intervention was involved, the process of answering questions relating to happiness may have been enough to encourage thoughts about 'what makes them happy' and subsequently raise their well–being levels. It is also worth noting that the sample included individuals who were interested in becoming 'happier', and hence were self–motivated to engage in activities to increase their happiness levels, even if they were not assigned to a specific intervention, as was the case for the control group" (Giannopoulos, & Vella–Brodrick, 2011, p. 103).

"In sum, this study's findings provide evidence, via a randomised controlled trial using participants from the general population, that positive interventions enable people to deliberately increase their SWB" (Giannopoulos, & Vella–Brodrick, 2011, p. 104).

"This article provides the first review of emerging research in affective, clinical, and social science examining the potential maladaptive aspects of happiness" (Gruber, Mauss, & Tamir, 2011, pp. 222-223).

"It is possible to have too much happiness, to experience happiness in the wrong time, to pursue happiness in the wrong ways, and to experience the wrong types of happiness. In such cases, happiness may not be adaptive and might even lead to harmful consequences" (Gruber, Mauss, & Tamir, 2011, p. 229).

"Most scientists and laypeople agree that happiness is primarily a cognitive valuation that one's life is satisfying and includes the presence of frequent positive and infrequent negative emotions (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). Essentially, it is a simple barometer that life is moving in a desired direction. The problem with happiness arises when people ascribe it to be the primary objective of their life (which reflects the vast majority of people; Oishi, Diener, & Lucas, 2007)" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 10).

"Mirroring the general public, positive psychology researchers far too often rely on the pursuit of happiness as the ultimate criterion. An alternative perspective has been gaining steam, however, marked by an influx of attention to mindfulness, acceptance, and values, but this work often occurs in isolation from people interested in positive psychology (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007; Leary, Adams, & Tate, 2006; Wilson & Murrell, 2004). Because of this separation, complex issues such as how happiness goals might be diametrically opposed to mindfulness are often ignored. Again, it is useful to consider how the vast body of research that has focused on psychopathology exemplifies the challenges facing positive psychology. In several variants of cognitive therapy—not to mention optimism training—clients are informed that certain thoughts are dysfunctional. The first step is to increase self-monitoring and awareness of thoughts. The second step is to pinpoint thoughts that are dysfunctional with appropriate labels. The third step is to refute or challenge the validity of these thoughts. The final step is to replace these negative dysfunctional thoughts with more positive, constructive thoughts and thereby lessen the amount of negative emotion experienced. Essentially, some negative emotions and thoughts are problematic and need to be purged and hopefully replaced with more positive emotions and thoughts. In contrast, in mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions, clients are taught that thoughts are thoughts, neither good nor bad, and they can be observed and explored without getting snagged into a resource-depleting struggle for control. In cognitive therapies the goal is to modify the content of one's thoughts and feelings. The goal of acceptance- and mindfulness-based approaches is to change relationships with thoughts and feelings––taking steps toward meaningful strivings while observing and being receptive to whatever internal experiences accompany the journey. While both perspectives share features such as insight about how automatic, habitual mental reactions can increase stressful reactions, a person cannot be nonjudgmental, open, and curious toward thoughts while simultaneously holding the belief that well-being stems from refuting negative thoughts and then replacing them with more positive thoughts" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 11).

"A narrow approach to well-being that is circumscribed to happiness might be less advantageous than a broader approach that includes happiness as only one of several dimensions within a matrix. Other dimensions in this broad, matrix approach include meaning and purpose in life, mindfulness, achievement, life balance and flexibility, and psychological needs for belonging, competence, and autonomy, among others" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 11).

In their introductory article on positive psychology, Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) argued that at the individual level, positive psychology is about a collection of positive individual psychological characteristics and traits. In an opposing view, McNulty and Fincham (2011, p. 2) "argue that wellbeing is not determined solely by people's psychological characteristics but instead is instead [sic] determined jointly by the interplay between those characteristics and qualities of people's social environments"


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.12 Positive psychology in relation to humanistic psychology

"Since psychology is in its infancy as a science, and so pitifully little is known by comparison with what we need to know, a good psychologist should be a humble man. Feeling his responsibility, he should be very conscious of how much he ought to know, and how little he actually does know. Unfortunately, too many psychologists are not humble, but are, rather, swollen with little knowledge. There is, in fact, no greater danger than an arrogant psychologist or psychiatrist" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 20).

"Psychology should be more humanistic, that is, more concerned with the problems of humanity, and less with the problems of the guild. The sad thing is that most students come into psychology with humanistic interests. They want to find out about people; they want to understand love, hate, hope, fear, ecstasy, happiness, the meaning of living. But what is so often done for these high hopes and yearnings? Most graduate, and even undergraduate, training turns away from these subjects, which are called fuzzy, unscientific, tender–minded, mystical. (I couldn't find the word 'love' indexed in any of the psychology books on my shelves, even the ones on marriage.) Instead the student is offered dry bones, techniques, precision, and huge mountains of facts which have little relation to the interests which brought him into psychology" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 20).

"Psychology ought to become more positive and less negative. It should have higher ceilings, and not be afraid of the loftier possibilities of the human being. One major shortcoming of research psychology, and psychiatry as well, is its pessimistic, negative and limited conception of the full height to which the human being can attain. Partly because of this preconception, it has so far revealed many of man's shortcomings, weaknesses and ills, but few of his virtues, potentialities or higher aspirations" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 27).

"This is not a call for optimism. Rather it is a demand for realism in the best sense of the word. It is ridiculous to identify realism with darkness, misery, pathology and breakdown, as so many contemporary novelists have done. Happiness is as real as unhappiness; gratification is as real as frustration; love is as real as hostility" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 27).

"My belief is that such a health–psychology will inevitably transform our deepest conceptions of human nature. It will wean us away from our almost universal habit of regarding normality as a special case of the abnormal, and teach us that instead the abnormal is a special case of the normal, and that psychological illness is primarily a struggle toward health" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 28).

The following paragraph obviously created a firestorm of controversy:

"Unfortunately, humanistic psychology did not attract much of a cumulative empirical base, and it spawned myriad therapeutic self–help movements. In some of its incarnations, it emphasized the self and encouraged a self–centeredness that played down concerns for collective well–being. Further debate will determine whether this came about because Maslow and Rogers were ahead of the times, because these flaws were inherent in their original vision, or because of overly enthusiastic followers. However, one legacy of the humanism of the 1960s is prominently displayed in any large bookstore: The “psychology” section contains at least 10 shelves on crystal healing, aromatherapy, and reaching the inner child for every shelf of books that tries to uphold some scholarly standard" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 7).

Commentary: I find it bizarre that these authors would say this and not appreciate or anticipate that the same thing would happen with positive psychology. Not only that, but Seligman himself has contributed at least a foot of shelf space in the very self–help section he criticizes. In addition, some of his colleagues have also jumped on self–help bandwagon as well, for example, Lyubomirsky recently published a book for general readers called The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want and has an iPhone app called "live happy" (See Ruark, 2009).

"We wish that Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) themselves had done a more scholarly job of investigating humanistic psychology. Neither the theory nor practice of humanistic psychology is narrowly focused on the narcissistic self or on individual fulfillment" (Bohart & Greening, 2001, p. 81).

Common ground between humanistic psychology and positive psychology has been noted (Resnick, Warmoth, & Serlin, 2001; Robbins, 2008; Sheldon & Kasser, 2001).

Taylor (2001) has confronted Seligman's apparently disdain for humanistic psychology. Echoing and enlarging on Cowen & Kilmer (2002), both Bohart and Greening (2001) and Taylor (2001) emphasized the rich theoretical and empirical tradition reflected in the literature of psychology and in particular of humanistic psychology that was not considered in the formulation of positive psychology as presented by Seligman. It is one thing to ignore a body of literature, it is another to imply that such a body of literature does not exist.

"Positive psychology seems to emerge as a renewed humanistic approach to the individual and collective potential for happiness, but this time it is strengthened by empirical data and adequate research methodologies" (Lampropoulos, 2001, p. 87).

"Unfortunately, it [humanistic psychology] never penetrated mainstream psychology, even though Maslow had been president of the American Psychological Association. The reasons for remaining a largely therapeutic endeavor outside of academic contact probably had to do with its alienation from conventional empirical science. Unlike Rogers and Maslow, subsequent leaders in Humanistic Psychology were quite skeptical about conventional empirical methods. They coupled their important premises with a sloppier, radical epistemology stressing phenomenology and individual case histories. This made it doubly hard for mainstream psychology to digest. But academic psychology of the 1960s was constipated, and they never invited Humanistic Psychology in" (Seligman, 2002a, p. 275).

Comment: Seligman says humanistic psychology never penetrated the mainstream "even though" Maslow had been president of the APA (elected July 8, 1966). This remark does not reflect any understanding of the context of Maslow in this position. At the time Maslow was trying to develop transpersonal psychology. He expressed his irritation and frustration with the APA: "I remember how saddened and irritated I was by an official report of a major committee of the American Psychological Association on the future of psychological science. The recommendations were principally methodological: how to be cautious, how to check, how to discover mistakes, how to validate, how to be accurate and precise. Hardly a word was mentioned about the need for creativeness, for new ideas, breaking out of the rut, taking a chance, encouraging uncertainty and exploration. It was all so much like the road maps given out at a gas station, that tell us how to make our way from known place to place. Not a word is given about the no–man's land where there are no street signs and paved roads; not a word about the pioneering and trail–breaking that are necessary before the maps can be made" (Maslow, 1965a, pp. 25–26). Add to this the fact that he suffered a near fatal heart attack in 1967.

Maslow had begun to study business in 1962 and wrote a book on his observations of enlightened management (Maslow, 1965b). His impact on business and management philosophy was probably as strong as it was on psychology (Conley, 2007; Maslow, 1998; Maslow & Stephens, 2000; Wren & Greenwood, 1998). After his experience as president of the APA, Maslow left academia to take an honorary position at the Saga Corporation, a company he had been consulting for some time, in Menlo Park California.

In reference to the above, McDonald and O'Callaghan (2008, p. 135) note that Seligman's partner in presenting a positive psychology, Csikszentmihalyi, was a phenomenologist himself and that his research consisted of experiential sampling, a phenomenological research technique.

"Too many people with nonscientific agendas joined the humanists, and after 1969 the movement was taken over by the psychotherapeutic counterculture" (Keyes & Haidt, 2003, p. 5) Comment: "Maslow's articulation of self–actualization and peak experiences resonated strongly with the counterculture, but Maslow himself was disparaging of the movement. He was a supporter of the Vietnam War and viewed hippies and flower children as overindulged and under disciplined. One of his major proponents who then became a counterculture icon himself was the student radical Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman had been a student of Maslow's at Brandeis University and embraced Maslow's work as foundational for the counterculture revolution. Maslow attempted to distance himself from Hoffman and other 'fringe elements' but was never able to block the appropriation of his ideas by this group and the human potential movement more generally" (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010, p. 229).

"What distinguishes positive psychology from the humanistic psychology of the 1960s and 1970s and from the positive thinking movement is its reliance on empirical research to understand people and the lives they lead. Humanists were often skeptical about the scientific method and what it could yield and yet were unable to offer an alternative other than the insight that people were good" (Peterson & Seligman, 2004, p. 4)

"much of the emphasis in humanistic psychology—particularly early humanistic psychology—was on theories of optimal personality development such as self–actualization. While positive psychology also investigates potentials for greater psychological development, it places greater emphasis on the well–being and satisfaction of the "average" person on the street (see Sheldon & King, 2001). In most studies, positive psychologists have focused on the benefits of simply being more happy and satisfied with life" (Compton, 2005, p. 13).

"The premise of humanistic psychology was that people have a free will and make choices that influence their well-being. What also makes it very different from other perspectives in psychology is belief in the actualising tendency - a fundamental motivation towards growth. Rogers, the originator of the concept, describes it as:
' ... man's tendency to actualize himself, to become potentialities. By this I mean the directional trend which is evident in all organic and human life - the urge to expand, develop, mature - the tendency to express and activate all the capacities of the organism and the self. This tendency may become deeply buried under layer after layer of encrusted psychological defences; it may be hidden behind elaborate facades that deny its existence; it is my belief, however, based on my experience, that it exists in every individual, and awaits only the proper conditions to be released and expressed'75" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 40).

"'The fundamental difference between humanistic psychology and positive psychology is in their relationship to research, epistemology, and methodology," says Ben–Shahar. 'Many who joined the 'Third Wave' were not rigorous. Humanistic psychology gave birth to the self–help movement, and lots of self–help books have come out with concepts grounded in emotion and intuition. Positive psychology combines those things with reason and research.'" (Lambert, 2007, p. 27).

"Given the critiques of humanistic psychology leveled by Seligman and Csikszentmihályi (2000), particularly with regard to the myriad self–help movements that the movement spawned, it is ironic that their efforts to expand the terrain of applied psychology practice parallel those of humanistic psychologists in the 1960s (Herman, 1995). Indeed, the opening section of Maslow's Toward a Psychology of Being (1962) was entitled 'A Larger Jurisdiction for Psychology.' Moreover, positive psychology has already given birth to a swarm of media pundits, self–help gurus, and advice books, many written by Seligman himself" (Becker & Marecek, 2008, p. 600).

""By valorizing their own movement, the authors discredit and disengage from humanistic psychology, which is painted by Seligman, Csikszentmihalyi, and Peterson as a false prophet" (McDonald & O'Callaghan, 2008, p. 134).

"Positive psychology asserts to being a unique approach that differentiates itself from its main predecessor, humanistic psychology, by embracing quantitative empirical research that humanistic psychology supposedly eschews. Martin Seligman's foreword claims that humanistic psychology largely lacks the use of "mainstream, cumulative, and replicable scientific method" (p. xvii), which is purported to be the foundation of positive psychology. Seligman does admit, however, that both positive and humanistic psychology can be differentiated from mainstream psychology in their emphasis on what is positive (e.g., health, goodness) in contrast to the prevailing focus on the negative (e.g., pathology, evil)" (Friedman, 2009).

"this encyclopedia [Lopez, 2009] does not support the contention that positive psychology is a coherent field different from its main predecessor, humanistic psychology. In fact, many of its entries deal with explicitly humanistic psychology topics. Humanistic psychology itself is an entry, as are avowedly humanistic topics like existential psychology" (Friedman, 2009).

"positive psychology has emerged as a repackaged product that has been aggressively marketed and has achieved amazing success as a result. Despite its rhetoric to the contrary, this encyclopedia [Lopez, 2009] unwittingly exposes positive psychology's similarity to both its predecessor and the mainstream. Its importance may lie in its revitalization of a humanistic psychology that attempts to more fully embrace positivistic empirical methods" (Friedman, 2009).

"Positive psychologists enjoy quite a tempestuous love– hate relationship with the humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. On the one hand, they applaud the focus on the individual's potential for self–change and self–enhancement. On the other, they resent the grandmotherly tone and lack of scientific rigor in humanistic psychology, its assumption of human beings' inherent goodness, and its easy degeneration into self–help mantras about narcissistic happiness in lieu of meaningful and collective well–being (see, e.g., Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 7)" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 297).

"Positive psychology is justifiably a branch of humanistic psychology. Let me clarify: To the extent that humanistic psychology1 stands for "What it means to be fully and experientially human, and how that understanding illuminates the vital and fulfilled life" – and it does, according to our texts (Schneider, Bugental, & Pierson, 2001) – I hereby advocate for a branch of humanistic psychology called positive psychology.
I am happy (and I use that word advisedly!) to endorse humanistic psychology as a positive psychology, and positive psychology as a humanism – yet with one major caveat: Positive psychology as it is presently constituted reflects what I call a "narrow band," cognitive behaviourally informed theoretical perspective. What I mean by this is that prevailing studies of happiness (or even that which has been termed human flourishing) represent but a circumscribed range of how such phenomena are actually experienced "on the ground," so to speak, in people's everyday worlds. If this were not the case, I don't think we'd see so many contradictory cases in positive psychology research, but I will elaborate on this momentarily" (Schneider, 2011, pp. 32–33).

"I advocate for a humanistically informed positive psychology, one that would supplement positive psychology scales with intimate, in–depth portraitures, and that would augment positive psychology theorizing with theorizing that accounts for the ranges of human fulfillment. In his study of self–actualizers, Abe Maslow (1968) made a similar point. One observation that had long stumped him, he said, began to fall into place, and that is that 'these most mature of all people were also strongly childlike. These same people [with] the strongest egos ever described and the most definitely individual, were also precisely the ones who could be most egoless, self–transcending, and problem–centered' (p. 140)" (Schneider, 2011, p. 36).

"Positive psychology is similar to humanistic and phenomenological psychology because of the interest in the individual's sense–making experience. However, positive psychology suggests that both the good and the bad about life are genuine, whereas humanists often—but not always—assert that people are inherently good. Second, positive psychology is anchored in the scientific method, whereas humanists often—but not always—are skeptical of science and the scientific method (Peterson, 2006; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000)" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 430).

"Humanistic psychologists assert that people are basically good but the process of self–actualization as improvement was not understood; humanistic psychologists were overarchingly optimistic about people's ability to change for the better. Cognitive psychologists reacted against behaviorism by applying the scientific method to the study of problem solving and rational choices. Positive psychology embraces the optimism of the humanists, the potential mechanisms of improvement of the cognitive psychologists, and the rigorous research methods of science" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 431).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.13 Positive psychology and cancer.

See: Annals of Behavioral Medicine 39(1) 2010

There has been a fairly sharp exchange on the use of positive psychology in cancer patients. The following two entries present the major argument.

In reviewing the role of positive psychology in cancer, Coyne and Tennen, (2010, p. 16) present the following conclusion "we urge positive psychologists to rededicate themselves to positive psychology based on scientific evidence rather than wishful thinking."

"positive psychology researchers have run well ahead and even counter to what we know, have failed to check theory against evidence, and have been seemingly oblivious to the cumulative empirical base of the broader psychological and cancer literatures. In doing so, they have failed to live up to the pronouncements of the field's spokespeople while promulgating bad science"  …  "In their enthusiasm to advance positive psychology, its advocates have created an enormous gap between their assertions and scientific evidence" (Coyne & Tennen, 2010, p. 17).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.14 Positive psychotherapy

See: Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 18(2) 2008

"This article develops the hypothesis that intervention strategies that cultivate positive emotions are particularly suited for preventing and treating problems rooted in negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and stress related health problems. Fredrickson's (1998) broaden–and–build model of positive emotions provides the foundation for this application. According to this model, the form and function of positive and negative emotions are distinct and complementary. Negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger, and sadness) narrow an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire toward specific actions that served the ancestral function of promoting survival. By contrast, positive emotions (e.g., joy, interest, and contentment) broaden an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire, which in turn can build that individual's enduring personal resources, resources that also served the ancestral function of promoting survival. One implication of the broaden–and–build model is that positive emotions have an undoing effect on negative emotions" (Fredrickson, 2000, p. 1).

"writing about the trauma has been assumed to provide an outlet for previously undisclosed emotions and to provide an opportunity to revise the experience and gain closure through language" (King & Miner, 2000, p. 220).

"Is it really necessary that individuals delve deeply into a negative traumatic event to experience the healing power of writing? (King & Miner, 2000, p. 221).

"writing in a way that emphasizes the positive aspects of one's traumatic experiences may ensure the same health benefits as writing about the experience in a way that maximizes the negative emotion experienced without the emotional costs. (King & Miner, 2000, p. 229).

"In our own clinical practice, we have attempted to use a positive psychology approach in working with people with schizophrenia and youths with behavioral disorders" (Ahmed & Boisvert, 2006 p. 334).

"Positive psychology thus focuses on creating an optimal environment in which positive skills may be more readily practiced and, consequently, in which clients are able to engage in a more productive day routine. Psychological knowledge and principles may provide therapists with a better understanding of what triggers or maintains negative or maladaptive behaviors and under what conditions positive behaviors can be elicited. More important, positive psychology principles and research may provide therapists with a greater understanding of how clients' improved emotional status (e.g., happiness) can promote better self–redirection or a better response to therapeutic redirection" (Ahmed & Boisvert, 2006 p. 335).

Three good things: Every night for one week, look back at your day just before you go to bed and find three things that went well for you during the day. Write them down and reflect on your role in them"

"Positive psychotherapy (PPT) contrasts with standard interventions for depression by increasing positive emotion, engagement, and meaning rather than directly targeting depressive symptoms" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 774).

"We call this approach positive psychotherapy (PPT). PPT rests on the hypothesis that depression can be treated effectively not only by reducing its negative symptoms but also by directly and primarily building positive emotions, character strengths, and meaning. It is possible that directly building these positive resources may successfully counteract negative symptoms and may also buffer against their future reoccurrence" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 775).

"In January of 2005, an exercise Web site, www.reflectivehappiness.com, was opened. This site has a book club, a newsletter, and forum discussion of positive psychology each month, but most important, one new positive psychology exercise is posted each month. The first month's exercise is the three blessings ("Write down three things that went well today and why they went well"), and the first month's subscription to the Web site is free (thereafter it costs $10 per month)" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 776).

"Individual PPT with severely depressed clients led to more symptomatic improvement and to more remission from depressive disorder than did treatment as usual and treatment as usual plus antidepressant medication. It also enhanced happiness" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 776).

"[Nevertheless,] we are encouraged by the potency of positive psychology exercises delivered on the Web with no human hands, by the congeniality of the approach to young depressed students, by how long the benefits lasted after treatment ended, and by the sheer effect size of PPT when delivered by a skilled therapist. Should these results be replicated, we speculate that future therapy for depression may combine talking about troubles with understanding and building positive emotion, engagement, and meaning" (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006, p. 786).

"Because most psychotherapy theories do not have a well–developed set of axioms and assumptions about the role of positive emotions (PE) in psychotherapy, our aim is to both synthesize some commonalities and highlight some distinctions drawn by the contributors to this special section" (Fitzpatrick & Stalikas, 2008, p. 249).

"For some reason, positive emotions were systematically absent from the psychotherapy community's field of interest. Fredrickson's (1998) article challenged our assumption and, at the very least, contributed in motivating us to pose the question, "Why do our psychotherapy theories not address the role of positive emotions? How come we have not been studying their potential therapeutic value?" (Stalikas & Fitzpatrick, 2008, p. 156).

"the broaden–and–build theory of positive emotion of Barbara Fredrickson  …  posits that experiencing a positive emotion allows the individual to access and develop a broadened repertoire of responses. The new responses create further positive emotions forming an upward spiral" (Fitzpatrick & Stalikas, 2008, p. 252).

"Positive emotions are not a replacement for the careful attention to the distress of the individual client that is a hallmark of good therapy" (Fitzpatrick & Stalikas, 2008, p. 256).

"Our central argument is that mental health workers will need new approaches to assessment and treatment if the goal is promoting well–being rather than treating illness" (Slade, 2010, p. 1).

"The WHO declaration about mental health is also clear: it is 'a state of well–being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community'" (Slade, 2010, p. 2).

"careful consideration should be given to the balance between research into mental illness and mental health. Among US adults with no mental illness, one in 10 are languishing and less than 2 in 10 are flourishing. The implicit expectation that research into mental illness will promote mental well–being is neither empirically justified nor a cost–free assumption – the opportunity costs for an illness–dominated research agenda may be high" (Slade, 2010, p. 4).

"The second implication is that it is possible to be moderately mentally healthy, or even flourishing, despite the presence of ongoing mental illness. In other words, personal recovery is possible even in the presence of current symptoms" (Slade, 2010, p. 5).

"positive psychology is unequivocally based on empirical research, and unlike recovery focused research has not avoided the use of nomothetic approaches, even to assess complex constructs such as meaning of life [71]. This scientific orientation has led to an emphasis on conceptual clarity, the use of scientific methods, and convergence on overarching theories [51]. The result is an academically credible scientific discipline [37], whose evidence is based on robust scientific methodologies [73]" (Slade, 2010, p. 6).
comment: the above quote requires a bit more thought. Slade states that this is an academically credible scientific discipline and then supports this with the reference to Snyder and Lopez (2002). Commentary: Since when does a handbook "create academic credibility?"Commentary: It seems ironic that Seligman has criticized humanistic psychology for their questionable research methodologies when he is "doing research" over the web – is this "robust?"

Two highly complementary "new sources of knowledge are now available to mental health professionals: collated syntheses of narratives of recovery from mental illness, and empirical evidence about well–being from the academic discipline of positive psychology" (Slade, 2010, p. 12).

Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs) are intentional activities such as performing acts of kindness, practicing optimism, and counting one's blessing gleaned from decades of research into how happy and unhappy people are different. This new approach has the potential to benefit depressed individuals who don't respond to pharmacotherapy or are not able or willing to obtain treatment, is less expensive to administer, is relatively less time–consuming and promises to yield rapid improvement of mood symptoms, holds little to no stigma, and carries no side effects. Although the paper found that positive activity interventions are effective in teaching individuals ways to increase their positive thinking, positive affect and positive behaviors, only two studies specifically tested these activities in individuals with mild depression. In one of these studies, lasting improvements were found for six months. Effective PAIs used in the study included writing letters of gratitude, counting one's blessings, practicing optimism, performing acts of kindness, meditating on positive feelings toward others, and using one's signature strengths, all of which can be easily implemented into a daily routine at low cost. (Layous, Chancellor, Lyubomirsky, Wang, & Doraiswamy, 2011).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.15 Positive psychology in the workplace

Running through Seligman's approach is an underlying endorsement of capitalism, endorsement of the American Society as status quo and an implicit application of positive psychology to the workplace.

"Several researchers have applied positive psychology to the workplace (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). Building from the foundation of the positive psychology movement, recent attention has been paid to positive organizational behavior (POB), defined as "the study and application of positively oriented human resource strengths that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today's workplace" (Luthans, 2002, p. 59). Three POB constructs receiving recent attention have been hope, subjective well–being, and confidence" (Hodges & Clifton, 2004 p. 263).

"positive organizational behavior (POB). POB emphasizes the need for more focused theory building, research, and effective application of positive traits, states, and behaviors of employees in organizations" (Bakker & Schaufeli, 2008, p. 147).

"What can organizations do to attract and keep creative, dedicated, and thriving employees who make organizations flourish?" (Bakker & Schaufeli, 2008, p. 147).

"Typically, POB studies individual positive psychological conditions and human resource strengths that are—in one way or the other—related to employee well–being or performance improvement. This may involve, for instance, the predictive validity of general mental ability and emotional intelligence for sales performance. Research may also focus on the cognitive capacities of creativity and wisdom, and the affective capacities of work engagement and humor. POB studies also examine the role of states like self–efficacy, optimism, hope, resilience, and other personal resources in coping with organizational demands or in fostering performance. Further, POB–researchers are interested in peak performance in organizations and examine the conditions under which employees thrive" (Bakker & Schaufeli, 2008, pp. 148–149).

Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(2), [Special issue]. 2008.

Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(2), [Special issue]. 2009.

"The purpose of this special issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior is to tangibly demonstrate that the concept of a "positive psychology" is gaining importance in both psychology and organizational behavior" (Wright & Quick, 2009, p. 147).

"positive psychology, with its forward–looking orientation, suggests that the potential for a more hopeful, productive, and satisfying future can emerge for people who are struggling to find their way through these tough times, as well as for many others who are somewhat more secure, but find themselves coasting along without much joy and meaning in their day–to–day work lives" (Froman, 2010, p. 60).

"Results reported by Losada and Heaphy (2004) showed that high performance teams demonstrated significantly more positive functioning defined in mathematical modeling terms as “positivity ratios” when compared to average and low performance teams" (Froman, 2010, p. 65).

"In these times of economic upheaval, stress, and uncertainty, great importance was given to the idea that organizations need to develop cultures of virtue, cultures built around principles of integrity, ethics, trust, and respect. Organizations bring out the best in their members by focusing on such positive psychologic concepts as strengths, hope, optimism, self–confidence, self–motivation, resilience, joy, and gratitude. Organizations of virtue strive to do well by doing good, and strive to do good by doing well. They create conditions for their members to thrive and flourish in ways that bridge economic and human development" (Froman, 2010, p. 68).

"Positive education  …  will enable youth to perform better at school and to perform better later in the workplace" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009; Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.16 Coaches of positive psychology

"An important point I want to emphasize, however, is that my definition of psychologist is broad but specific. I mean to include not just professors of psychology but rather all those–and only those–who are interested in developing a truer, clearer, more empirical conception of human nature. This would exclude many professors of psychology and many psychiatrists, but would include some sociologists, anthropologists, educators, philosophers, theologians, publicists, linguists, business men, and so on" (Maslow, 1965a, pp. 19–20).

"Coaching aims to produce fast personality changes through the setting and acquisition of goals. It is explicitly concerned with the promotion of well-being and performance 222, something that positive psychology takes an active interest in"  …  "attention should be redirected from 'fixing' the client, or looking for signs of pathology (which, supposedly, is a job of therapists),"  …  "coaching is intended to work on the construction of the client's skill base and development of their unrecognised talents and resources" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 109).

"This study is the first controlled study completed on an evidence–based group life–coaching intervention. It provided evidence that a cognitive–behavioral, solution–focused life coaching group programme is effective in increasing goal striving, well–being, and hope. The results also suggest that gains can be maintained over time. It is suggested that the role of hope theory may explain increases in goal striving and well–being within a life coaching intervention for a non–clinical population" (Green, Oades, & Grant, 2006, p. 149).

"Coaching is a practice without limits on the scope, lacking theoretical foundations and meaningful accreditation, one that has yet to develop a significant empirical base" (Seligman, 2007, p. 266). Of course, Seligman's solution to coachings' problems is positive psychology. "Positive psychology can provide coaching with a delimited scope of practice, with interventions and measurements that work, and with a view of adequate qualifications to be a coach" (Seligman, 2007, p. 266).
Comment: This paragraph needs to be read carefully as it contains significant implications. Seligman essentially is taking the concept of coaching and applying it to the average person. Note that Seligman says that you don't need to be a psychologist to be a positive psychology coach. "One need not be a licensed psychologist, or even a psychologist, to practise positive psychology or to practise coaching. Positive psychology is not intended to be an umbrella for yet another self–interested guild. People who are adequately trained in the techniques of coaching, in the theories of positive psychology, in valid measurement of the positive states and traits, in the interventions that work, and who know when to refer a client to someone who is better trained will be, by my lights, bona fide coaches of positive psychology" (Seligman, 2007, pp. 266–267).

"The term 'coaching' appears intermittently in the literature prior to the 1980s and was generally limited to the study and enhancement of sports performance (Gaylord, 1967; Griffith, 1926). Contemporary usage of the term tends to be much broader, however, with coaches interested in addressing performance issues across multiple domains of life (Grant, 2003b). As such, developments within the HPM [Human potential movement] can be considered forerunners to the emergence of the coaching industry" (Spence, 2007, p. 260).

"in this paper we contend that coaching psychology is a form of applied positive psychology and it can be seen as an emerging subdiscipline in psychology. Evidence–based coaching can be a useful real–life experimental methodology for psychologists exploring the psychomechanics of goal attainment, the development of resilience, wellbeing, hope and other personal strengths" (Grant & Cavanagh, 2007, pp. 239–240)

"Research and practical experience suggests that coaching clients have at least the same level of psychopathology as is found in the general population, if not higher. The real question is not whether coaching psychology clients have therapeutic needs. The issue is how the task of coaching differs from the task of psychotherapy. In other words, what are the boundaries between the different forms of applied psychology?" (Grant & Cavanagh, 2007, p. 240).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.17 Positive youth psychology (Positive Youth Development (PYD))

"This article analyzes the development of initiative as an exemplar of one of many learning experiences that should be studied as part of positive youth development" (Larson, 2000, p. 170).

"The field of positive youth development focuses on each and every child's unique talents, strengths, interests, and future potential" (Damon, 2004, p. 13).

"The positive youth development approach aims at understanding, educating, and engaging children in productive activities rather than at correcting, curing, or treating them for maladaptive tendencies or so–called disabilities" (Damon, 2004, p. 15).

"Positive psychology can help reclaim youth, not only from the actual problems they may experience but also from the unintended hazards of a world–view that regards them as inherently fragile and troubled. The perspective of positive psychology thus has several values. Most generally, positive psychology reframes how one looks at children. It is good to remind the larger world that 'the kids are alright.' Most are happy and healthy. They love their parents, and they appreciate their teachers. They are passionately interested in cultivating good character, in doing the right thing, and in making a difference (Steen, Kachorek, & Peterson, 2003)" (Peterson, 2009, p. 5).

"The perspective of positive psychology reaffirms the premise of these [youth development approaches] programs while adding some novel ideas based in current theory and research" (Peterson, 2009, p. 6).

Peterson (2009) notes that many youth development programs have a long history including: YWCA, YMCA, Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers of America, Big Sisters of America, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4H.

"Children's prosocial orientation, including their empathy, sympathy, and prosocial behavior, has been related to high status within the peer group, accomplishing one's own needs, and maintaining positive relationships with others (Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad, 2006; Rose–Krasnor & Denham, 2009)" (Eggum, Eisenberg, Kao, Spinrad, Bolnick, Hofer, et al., 2011, p. 4).

"Promoting children's EU (emotion understanding) and ToM (theory of mind) may facilitate development of prosocial orientation. Results from previous studies may suggest ways of doing so. For example, aspects of parenting, such as explaining emotions and supportive reactions to children's affect expression, have been related to children's EU" (Eggum, Eisenberg, Kao, Spinrad, Bolnick, Hofer, et al., 2011, p. 13).

"Institutions responsible for educating and socializing children, such as schools, should monitor students' full range of functioning, using resources that evaluate students' strengths and SWB as well as maladaptive dysfunctions" (Suldo, Thalji, & Ferron, 2011, p. 28).

"Adolescents' character strengths predicted their subsequent well–being. Other–directed strengths (e.g., forgiveness, kindness, teamwork) and temperance (e.g., self–regulation, perseverance) at the start of high school predicted fewer symptoms of depression through the end of 10th grade. Transcendence (e.g., hope, gratitude, meaning), temperance, other–directed, and intellectual strengths (e.g., curiosity, love of learning) predicted higher levels of life satisfaction. These findings suggest that character strengths contribute to well–being during adolescence"(Gillham, Adams–Deutsch, Werner, Reivich, Coulter–Heindl, Linkins, et al., 2011, p. 40). [Seligman is the last author].

"Transcendence strengths predicted life satisfaction, even when controlling for the influence of other types of strengths. Adolescents who scored low on transcendence at baseline were unlikely to report high life satisfaction during the first 2 years of high school. These findings illustrate the importance of developing positive relationships and of having dreams and a sense of purpose during adolescence" (Gillham, Adams–Deutsch, Werner, Reivich, Coulter–Heindl, Linkins, et al., 2011, p. 41). [Seligman is the last author].

"Contrary to our expectations, adolescents' strengths did not reliably predict their reports of happiness. We believe this reflects a problem in measurement" (Gillham, Adams–Deutsch, Werner, Reivich, Coulter–Heindl, Linkins, et al., 2011, p. 41). [Seligman is the last author].

"positive psychology and positive youth development (PYD) approaches. These perspectives hold that a complete picture of successful adolescent psychosocial development entails both the absence of negative behavioral and psychological indicators (e.g., delinquency, risk behaviors, depression, school dropout) as well as the presence of positive indicators (e.g., self–confidence, optimism, purpose in life, school success); that is, our kids should not merely be surviving, they should be thriving" (Bundick, 2011, p. 57).

[Results] "suggest that the act of participating in student leadership activities in high school promotes the development of purpose and a sense that one is on the path to a hopeful future, and that volunteering uniquely contributes to greater life satisfaction and overall positive development. These results are in some places consistent, and in others inconsistent, with previous research"  …  These results also suggest, rather dishearteningly, that engagement in the creative arts on average inhibits the development of purpose in life" (Bundick, 2011, p. 70).

"Results showed that positive development was positively associated with participation in student leadership and volunteering, and negatively associated with participation in the creative arts" (Bundick, 2011, p. 57).

"From this longitudinal study, we conclude that childhood well–being predicts positive adult wellbeing, and not merely the absence of mental ill–health" (Richards & Huppert, 2011, p. 75).

"Higher positive development in emerging adulthood was predicted by higher socioeconomic status, having better control of emotions, better adjustment to the school setting, having stronger relationships with parents and peers, and greater community engagement. There were some indications of gender differences in the strength of predictors of positive development for males and females. These findings indicate a number of potential domains that may foster positive development during this transition period" (O'Connor, Sanson, Hawkins, Letcher, Toumbourou, Smart, Vassallo, et al., 2011, pp. 869–870).

Temperament versus personality traits. The authors of this study did not find that personality traits were a significant predictor of subsequent positive functioning. The authors suggest their study looked at the broader aspects of personality compared to earlier studies that looked at temperament. The authors conclude "personality traits may not make a significant unique contribution positive development after underlying temperament dimensions are taken into account" (O'Connor, Sanson, Hawkins, Letcher, Toumbourou, Smart, Vassallo, et al., 2011, p. 871).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.18 Positive psychology and conceptualizations of the self

"If, during positive emotions, self–boundaries expand and become more permeable, [social broadening] at such moments people might more readily see their oneness with others and think in terms of 'we' instead of 'me' versus 'you'" (Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006, p. 103).

"Indications that positive emotions increase feelings of self–other overlap shed light on a possible mechanism through which positive emotions cultivate social closeness, forge lasting relationships, and build complex understanding of others" (Waugh & Fredrickson, 2006, p. 104).

"Positive psychology clearly is concerned with the development and enhancement of the self. But what kind of self is the subject of positive psychology? Numerous scholars (e.g., Baumeister, 1987; Gergen, 1973; Guignon, 2004; Sampson, 1988) have argued that conceptions of self vary within and across cultures and over time, and that the boundaries of identity (i.e., how we define the self) shape how we think about the good person and the good life" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 565).

"The abundant psychological research into the self—its trajectory and oscillations—that blossomed in the 1980s happened to be research exclusively into the self as viewed from a particular historically situated conceptual perspective, a perspective in which the self is understood as a unique self–contained unit of being and study, immersed in inner space. Positive psychology has quietly taken over this independent Western/liberal/individualist) self–concept, as distinct from the interdependent (Eastern/traditional/holistic) self–concept, and carried it to its logical extreme" (Kristjansson, 2010, p. 298).

"In this paper, we propose that attaining authentic happiness is linked to the way we relate to the notion of a self, and more particularly to its nature. We defend the idea that the perception of a structured self in the form of a seemingly solid, permanent and independent entity, favors a self–centered psychological functioning, which is the source of unstable, fluctuating happiness. In opposition to this, we propose that selfless psychological functioning emerges from the perception of the self as being flexible (i.e., a dynamic experience) and that this constitutes a source of authentic and durable happiness" (Dambrun & Ricard, 2011, p. 138).

"Consistently, the perception of availability of true self–knowledge (operationalized as the metacognitive experience of ease in describing one's true self) predicted meaning in life judgments over and above other potentially related constructs such as mood and self–esteem" (Schlegel, Hicks, King, & Arndt, 2011, p. 745).

"The true self is defined as who a person really is, regardless of his or her outward behavior. Many people believe that this true self is a vitally important part of a person's identity (e.g., Gergen, 1991). Despite the popularity of lay beliefs about the true self, there is little empirical evidence for the psychological foundations and functions of the true self–concept (i.e., a person's avowed true self)" (Schlegel, Hicks, King, & Arndt, 2011, p. 745).

"  …  Aristotle (1998, original work circa 350 bce), [who] believed that the highest form of excellence was achieved through living in accord with one's true self. This idea is a recurring theme throughout the history of both psychology and philosophy and is featured in the works of such notable thinkers as Kierkegaard, James, and Rogers" (Schlegel, Hicks, King, & Arndt, 2011, p. 745).

"clear that people value the traits and roles that most accurately represent their true self concept" (Schlegel, Hicks, King, & Arndt, 2011, p. 754).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.19 Positive psychology in relation to personality development

Most contemporary approaches to personality development are based upon Loevinger (1976) and her description of levels of ego development.

"We must know what men are like at their best; not only what they are, but also what they can become. The byproducts of such knowledge are incalculably important. My belief is that such a health–psychology will inevitably transform our deepest conceptions of human nature. It will wean us away from our almost universal habit of regarding normality as a special case of the abnormal, and teach us that instead the abnormal is a special case of the normal, and that psychological illness is primarily a struggle toward health" (Maslow, 1965a, pp. 27–28).

"A human being also tends to grow stronger, wiser, healthier, to actualize his potentialities, to be curious, to wonder, to be –interested, to philosophize, to be creative, to enjoy. He does not only adjust; he also rebels" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 28).

"In any case, the conception of therapy as the elimination of symptoms and illnesses is too limited. We must learn to think of it more as a technique for fostering general growth, for encouraging self–actualization" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 29).

"Psychology should study the human being not just as passive clay, helplessly determined by outside forces. Man is, or should be, an active, autonomous, self–governing mover, chooser and center of his own life. The so–called stimulus–response psychology has unintentionally created what might be called a Stimulus–Response man, passive, shaped, adjusting, learning. With him should be contrasted the creative, active man, who invents, makes decisions, accepts some stimuli and rejects others, who, in fact, creates his own stimuli. Posing this opposition may help in understanding why more and more psychologists are growing worried about the concept of 'adjustment.' Adjustment, whether to the culture, to other people, or to nature, essentially means being passive, letting oneself be shaped from the outside. It is trying to be what others want, instead of searching for one's real self. From this point of view, psychologists are increasingly beginning to criticize the conception of learning as a passive process" (Maslow, 1965a, pp. 31–32).

"In his essential core, no human being is comparable with any other. Therefore his ideals for himself, his path of growth, must also be unique. His goal must arise out of his own nature, and not be chosen by comparison or competition with others. Each man's task is to become the best himself" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 29).

"Our data suggest that it is critical for individuals to construct a story or narrative to explain the traumatic experience. Constructing a story, rather than having a story per se, may be one of the keys to moving from reliving a trauma to returning to the good life" (King & Pennebaker, 1998, p. 53).

"confronting traumas is likely to be an upsetting experience but in allowing oneself to be upset, the individual is free to seek meaning. Research on negative life circumstances isn't necessarily 'biased' as much as it is a reflection of human life–'if it ain't broke, we don't fix it.' Importantly, difficult life experiences also can serve to promote personal growth (Helson & Roberts, 1994)" (King & Pennebaker, 1998, p. 55).

"the goals people seek provide a psychic hub in their lives—lending a sense of purpose to what people do. Goals are inherently contextualized. They attach people to the events of the day and are situated in the circumstances that make up the psychological context of their lives" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 121).

"the role of narrated "possible selves" in well–being and personality development. We argue that such goals represent a fertile ground for understanding the role of motivational processes through life transitions. When we ask individuals to provide narrative descriptions of their goals, we are asking them to describe and illuminate the phenomenological experience of motivation in their lives. When human beings consider their lost or forsaken goals, they are thinking back on their previous sources of meaning—those things that made their life make sense at one time" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 122).

"Motives toward self–understanding, personal growth, generativity, and so forth may take precedence over the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, coping with life–changing experiences may lead to important outcomes that are independent of happiness itself" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 122).

In Loevinger's (1976) view, growth may only occur when the environment fails to conform to the person's expectations"  …  "When people are faced with significant life events, they have the opportunity to develop the complexity of their perspectives and ultimately themselves. Research on important life changes has supported the notion that the ego may well develop through such experience (Bursik, 1991; Helson, 1992; Helson & Roberts, 1994; Helson & Wink, 1987; King & Smith, 2004)" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 123).

"a person can come to a psychological understanding of the examined life as one in which the person can engage in his or her own development by actively confronting loss and reconstructing a life worth pursuing" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 124).

"To be happy and avoid regret, it is best to relegate lost goals to 'what might have been' and move on. The person cannot perseverate on old goals and maintain happiness. Rather, the pursuit of happiness requires a central change in one's motivational system—relinquishing one's previous sources of meaning and embracing life's second chances" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 128).

"The model of personality development that we propose here involves two processes. First, to maintain a sense of positive well–being, the individual must relinquish cherished goals that are no longer available and reinvest in new goals commensurate with what has been lost or forsaken. A second process involves the place of those forsaken goals in the individuals' enduring self–story. Here, the capacity to acknowledge a previous self in its fullness is associated with heightened development and increasing development over time" (King & Hicks, 2006, pp. 130–131).

"The individual must stop waiting "to go back to normal" and instead invest deeply in a new, foreign life. An appropriate metaphor here might be that of acculturation—to thrive in this new life, the person must adopt a new system of meaning and acknowledge new values while maintaining the capacity to see the value of one's old ways of being"  …  "the very level of investment that might contribute to the 'disequilibration' resulting from goal loss also makes it more likely the individual will grow through such experience" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 131).

"It may be that dedication to commitments is an important aspect of maturity itself. Indeed, we suggest that the capacity to commit to goals, within the context of having experienced goal loss, may be the best expression of maturity …  . The mature person is one who maintains the central notion that life does matter and that there is meaning in one's attachment to the events of the world" (King & Hicks, 2006, p. 133).

"Empirically, research shows consistently that higher levels of psychosocial maturity do not correlate with higher levels of well–being" (Bauer, Schwab, & McAdams, 2011, p. 121).
"In other words, on average, people who score at higher relative to lower stages of maturity are not more likely to score higher on measures of well–being" (Bauer, Schwab, & McAdams, 2011, p. 121).
"These studies provide preliminary evidence that the highest stage of ED [Ego Development] might involve higher levels of well–being and a more growth–oriented self–identity than other stages of ED. These studies suggest—again, in a preliminary way—an empirical portrait of optimal development that includes the capacities to think about one's life at a high level of complexity and integration, to feel good about one's life, and to identify closely with processes of both intellectual and experiential growth"  …  "To address the mystery that the highest stage of maturity might culminate in well–being, after stages and stages having no greater likelihood of well–being, we begin by considering two paths to well–being: the short road and the long road"
The short road. "This assessment boils down to being satisfied with what one has in life, a matter of matching expectations with perceived realities—regardless of how complexly or integratively one interprets those realities"
The long road. "changes in how the individual interprets his or her life may heighten or dampen one's average level of well–being. Perhaps the changes in how the individual interprets his or her life upon developing into the highest stage of ED help to heighten well–being"  …  "perhaps another path to happiness involves the long road of psychosocial maturity and self–actualizing. King (2001) calls this path 'the hard road to the good life' (p. 51), emphasizing the tendency for those of heightened maturity to acknowledge head–on rather than gloss over life's difficulties. The road is also long, as Integrated ED generally does not emerge before mid–life. (Bauer, Schwab, & McAdams, 2011, p. 130). "We propose that only after identifying with growth processes for some time—a tendency that emerges in the post conventional stages of ED (Loevinger, 1976)—can the individual who had not previously accepted his or her life as satisfactory gain enough experience to accept it eventually [italics added]" (Bauer, Schwab, & McAdams, 2011, p. 133).

Comment: the above article deserves further explanation. Using Loevinger's (1976) model, ego development is measured as a continuous variable involving a number of steps from impulsivity (less than 1% of the population), self protection (<10%), conformity (10%), self awareness (40%), conscientiousness (30%), individualism (10%), autonomy (<2%) and finally integration (<1%). Successive stages do not yield increasing levels of well–being compared to prior stages. Only when one achieves the final stage of integration does the research indicate a higher level of well–being and a more growth oriented self–identity. Also note the quote from page 133 italics added. The authors are saying that integration and happiness must entail acceptance of one's life as one has lived it, certainly the opposite conclusion of the process of maturation and development that Dąbrowski had in mind.

Comment: this article is not under the positive psychology umbrella per se. But it's interesting and pertains to Dąbrowski. "Two commonly held assumptions of research into personality development are that personality has "set like plaster" (James, as cited in Costa & McCrae, 1994, p. 21) and will not change much after the age of 30 and that adolescence is a period in which personality matures and becomes more stable" (Meeus, Van de Schoot, Klimstra, & Branje, 2011, p. 1181).
[resilients (R) characterized by high levels of ego–resiliency and moderate levels of ego–control and are able to adapt their levels of ego–control to environmental demands. Overcontrollers (O) and undercontrollers (U) have low levels of ego–resiliency and differ markedly on egocontrol. Overcontrollers maintain relatively inflexible levels of high ego–control, whereas undercontrollers have relatively inflexible levels of low ego–control.]
"The primary goal of Study 1 was to evaluate whether personality types are stable or whether there is a systematic personality change in the direction of resiliency during adolescence" (p. 1183). "we observed change of personality types in the direction of resiliency" (p. 1191).
"We also found substantial stability of personality, with 73.5% of the adolescents remaining in the same personality type between Waves 1 and 5. This finding shows that personality types are already quite stable in adolescence" (p. 1191).
"the resilient type indexes the most well–adjusted personality profile and is consistent with the findings of Study 2 showing that resilients are the least anxious and most capable of forming intimate relationships" (p. 1191). "the analyses of the personality type trajectories revealed that the majority of adolescents who change personality type across 5 years make only one transition. This makes clear that personality type changes tend to be decisive in adolescence and that probabilities of additional personality type changes are low" (p. 1192).
"We replicated the well–known finding that male adolescents more often tend to be undercontrollers, and female adolescents overcontrollers" (p. 1192).
"Stable resilients (R>R) were less anxious over time than were stable overcontrollers (O>O), and change from O>R was accompanied by a decrease in anxiety, whereas change from R>O was accompanied by an increase in anxiety" (p. 1192).
"these findings imply that overcontrol goes together with anxiety and an inability to enter into the world of social relationships. Additionally, moving out of overcontrol means leaving anxiety behind and being more able to grow into the social world" (p. 1192).
"The main conclusion of the research is that personality types mature in the direction of resiliency. This means that research into adolescent personality development has come full circle. Adolescent personality matures not only in terms of mean levels and stability of personality traits but also in terms of personality organization" (p. 1192).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.20 Positive psychology and the American Army

See the special issue: American Psychologist , 66(1), 2011.

Seligman expanded the positive psychology concept to the United States Army in creating a program called "comprehensive soldier fitness," (Cornum, Matthews, & Seligman, 2011; Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, 2011; Seligman & Fowler, 2011). Seligman basically says that this is a tremendous opportunity to do research on the ideas of positive psychology with a database of millions of soldiers and then, if the principles are sound, they can be applied "to the civilian population" through medicine, education and other special programs.

Ever modest, Seligman is not content to contribute to the Army he wants to apply these ideas to change the practice of psychology, medicine and education. "As a large part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, positive psychology is meeting this need with new tests, with new fitness courses, and with resilience training. These developments may transform the practice of psychology and psychology's relation to medicine and education" (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 82).

"The use of resilience training and positive psychology in the Army is consciously intended as a model for civilian use" (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85).

See the special issue: American Psychologist , 66(1), 2011.
This issue raised quite a bit of debate as follows:
Phipps, S. (2011). Positive psychology and war: An oxymoron. The American psychologist, 66(7), 641-2. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024933
Krueger, J. I. (2011). Shock without awe. The American psychologist, 66(7), 642-3. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025080
Eidelson, R., Pilisuk, M., & Soldz, S. (2011). The dark side of comprehensive soldier fitness. The American psychologist, 66(7), 643-4. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025272
Quick, J. C. (2011). Missing: Critical and skeptical perspectives on comprehensive soldier fitness. The American psychologist, 66(7), 645. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024841 Reply: Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Helping American soldiers in time of war: Reply to comments on the comprehensive soldier fitness special issue. The American psychologist, 66(7), 646-7. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025156

 Comment: in Seligman's reply, he indicates that his project is not research but rather, a training program. "CSF is not research. It has the same status as training programs that require all soldiers to attend classes about how to recognize signs of suicide and sexual harassment, to do morning physical training, how to resist psychologically when captured, orwhy to wear safety belts when driving. These programs do not require informed consent" (Seligman, 2011, p. 646). This is a weak argument, and perhaps even disingenuous, given that a major component of Seligman's platform was that this program would act as a staging ground involving validation of his tests and of the program. For example, Seligman and Fowler  (2011, p. 85) state: "We have worked in test creation and validation, in course creation, in writing and refining resilience and positive psychology training materials, and in serving as data analysts, as research designers, [italics added] and as the trainers and facilitators of live courses with Army personnel. Of critical interest is the Soldier Fitness Tracker (Fravell, Nasser, & Cornum, 2011, this issue). This powerful platform creates an unprecedented, hypermassive database in which psychological variables, medical variables, and performance variables are merged." "The validation of the GAT, the effects of the fitness courses, the effects of resilience and positive psychology training, and the efficacy of the master resilience trainers will all be carefully measured by the Army over the months and years to come" (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85). That's not research? Seligman seems to want to have it both ways, but can he?


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.21 Positive psychology and education

Sternberg (2004) suggests that intelligence, as measured by IQ, is increasing by about nine points per generation but that we have little to show for this ongoing increase. Sternberg also indicates that those with strong intelligence may not necessarily be wise: "smart people are especially susceptible to committing certain fallacies in their thinking that less intelligent people may be less likely to commit: (1) egocentrism—thinking that the whole world revolves around them; (2) omniscience—thinking they know everything; (3) omnipotence—thinking they can do whatever they want; and (4) invulnerability— thinking they can get away with anything" (Sternberg, 2004, p. 165). He therefore argues for an emphasis on and developing wisdom as part of the school curriculum.

Seligman is developing and advocating a positive education curriculum. "Positive education claims that teaching young people the skills of emotional fitness along with teaching the traditional goals of education will enable youth to perform better at school and to perform better later in the workplace. And, more important, perhaps these young people will enjoy lives that have more positive emotion, engagement, and meaning and better relationships" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009; Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85).

"Positive education is defined as education for both traditional skills and for happiness" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 293).

"We conclude that, were it possible, well–being should be taught in school on three grounds: as an antidote to depression, as a vehicle for increasing life satisfaction, and as an aid to better learning and more creative thinking. Because most young people attend school, schools provide the opportunity to reach them and enhance their well–being on a wide scale" (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009, p. 295).

Comment: in my opinion you have to read Seligman very closely, in the above quote he suggests that his conclusion is that positive education and well–being should be taught on the grounds that it is an antidote to depression. However, in the same article on page 302, appears this statement "The positive psychology programme did not improve other outcomes we measured, such as students' reports of their depression and anxiety symptoms, character strengths, and participation in extra–curricular activities."

Comment: I must say this certainly frightens me and reminds me of subliminal advertising. "GGS teachers and administrators have now begun the process of embedding Positive Education into most academic courses, on the sports field, in pastoral counselling, in music and in the chapel"

"If it turns out that soldiers given this training perform better in their jobs, are more engaged, have more meaning in their lives, enjoy better relationships, and have more fruitful employment when they return to civilian society, this will ground a new model for our public schools. Again we will know whether this is so within the next decade" (Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 85).

Hoy and Tarter (2011) summarize several positive psychology initiatives in schools including Snyder's hope theory, the idea of flow in schools involving student engagement and, positive adjustment in children. These articles are from a special issue of School Psychology Quarterly, 2003, 18 (2).

Hoy and Tarter (2011) offer suggestions about how to use positive psychology to refocus the study of educational organizations and educational administration. They call for sustained research on educational administration to expand our scope of knowledge to improve theory, research and practice in education. Topics for research might include "flow, resilience, positive deviance, zest, optimism, efficiency, engagement, hope, meaningfulness, altruism, tolerance, justice, vitality, and virtue" (Hoy & Tarter, 2011, p. 441).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.22 Positive psychology and Neuroscience

See: http://posneuroscience.org/aboutUs.html The Positive Neuroscience Project was established in 2008 by Professor Martin E.P. Seligman, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center, with a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. In 2009, the project announced the Templeton Positive Neuroscience Awards competition to bring the tools of neuroscience to bear on advances in Positive Psychology. The project will grant $2.9 million in award funding to 15 new research projects at the intersection of Neuroscience and Positive Psychology.
– Virtue, strength, and positive emotion: What are the neural bases of the cognitive and affective capacities that enable virtues such as discipline, persistence, honesty, compassion, love, curiosity, social and practical intelligence, courage, creativity, and optimism?
– Exceptional abilities: What is special about the brains of exceptional individuals and what can we learn from them?
– Meaning and positive purpose: How does the brain enable individuals and groups to find meaning and achieve larger goals?
– Decisions, values, and free will: How does the brain enable decisions based on values and how can decision
–making be improved? What can neuroscience reveal about the nature of human freedom?
– Religious belief, prayer, and meditation: How do religious and spiritual practices affect neural function and behavior?

"Research has shown that positive emotions and interventions can bolster health, achievement, and resilience, and can buffer against depression and anxiety. And while considerable research in neuroscience has focused on disease, dysfunction, and the harmful effects of stress and trauma, very little is known about the neural mechanisms of human flourishing. Creating this network of positive neuroscience researchers will change that." Seligman, Retrieved August 6, 2011 from https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletter.aspx?id=1545

"Using self–report and electrophysiological methods, we have demonstrated that dispositional PA [positive–affect] and an approach–oriented behavioral style, objectively measured using an index of asymmetric frontal function, separately contribute to two theoretically derived forms of well–being. We have further shown that left frontal activation predicts eudaimonic but not hedonic well–being when variation in dispositional PA is statistically controlled. Goal–relevant approach tendencies not captured by highly engaged PA may be more critical for attaining eudaimonic than hedonic well–being" (Urry, Nitschke, Dolski, Jackson, Dalton, Mueller, Rosenkranz, et al., 2004, p. 371).

"Anhedonia is a hallmark symptom of MDD [major depressive disorder] and elucidating the core neural signatures and processes of anhedonia is necessary for a more complete understanding and treatment of the disorder (29)" (Heller, Johnstone, Shackman, Light, Peterson, Kolden, Kalin, et al., 2009, p. 22448).

"MDD patients displayed abnormalities in distinct networks when regulating negative as opposed to positive affect. However, both studies found abnormalities in the PFC [prefrontal cortex]. The fact that in depression, the PFC appears to be abnormally engaged in both positive and negative emotion regulation contributes to a growing body of work that suggests that depressed patients may have difficulty recruiting prefrontal resources to regulate subcortical structures involved in affect" (Heller, Johnstone, Shackman, Light, Peterson, Kolden, Kalin, et al., 2009, p. 22448).

"Because NAcc activation has been linked to reward and motivation, training depressed individuals to sustain engagement with tasks which may activate the NAcc [nucleus accumbens] might be able to be used in clinical practice" (Heller, Johnstone, Shackman, Light, Peterson, Kolden, Kalin, et al., 2009, p. 22449).

"In conclusion, our findings suggest that individuals with depression suffer from an inability to sustain reward–related activity that is reflected in the fronto–striatal network across time, and that this deficit is associated with reduced positive affect. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the hallmark symptoms of anhedonia in MDD are based on an inability to sustain positive affect" (Heller, Johnstone, Shackman, Light, Peterson, Kolden, Kalin, et al., 2009, p. 22449).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.23 Positive psychology and character strengths

VIA Classification of 24 Strengths and Virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

"The VIA distinguishes strengths from talents. Although this distinction is not clear-cut, talents are seen as belonging to a more innate and less voluntary domain. VIA also claims that strengths are morally valued across cultures, whilst talents are non-moral" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 83).


According to Clifton and Anderson (2001–2002) "strengths are produced when talents are refined with knowledge and skills. Strengths that are fully developed and applied appropriately result in achievement and excellence" (Boniwell, 2006, p. 86). A chart of 34 strengths identified by Clifton and Anderson are presented from Boniwell (2006, p. 87).


"Strengths of character and positive experiences such as a satisfied life are among the central concerns of positive psychology (McCullough & Snyder, 2000; Seligman, 2002). Character strengths can be defined as positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They exist in degrees and can be measured as individual differences. We speculate that these are grounded in biology through an evolutionary process that selected for these predispositions toward moral excellence as means of solving the important tasks necessary for survival of the species (cf. Bok, 1995; Schwartz, 1994; Wright, 1994)" (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, pp. 603–604).

Comment: although the authors have stated their speculation that character strengths are "grounded in biology" they follow a theme of positive psychology in suggesting that all of these strengths can be taught and they go on to state: "We already know how to nurture gratitude (Miller, 1995) and hope (Gillham, Reivich, Jaycox, & Seligman, 1995; McDermott & Snyder,1999). Less clear is how to teach love, zest, or curiosity, although we do know some of their naturally occurring precursors  … " (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, p. 617).

"We find that hope, zest, gratitude, curiosity, and love are most strongly associated with life satisfaction, and modesty and intellectual strength least so. To the extent that interventions strive to build life satisfaction, the strengths most robustly associated with well–being might be considered prime targets" (Park, Peterson, & Seligman, 2004, p. 617).

Classification of Character Strengths

Six classes of virtue (i.e., "core virtues") (Peterson and Seligman, 2004).

"Part of our project has entailed a systematic survey of deliberate interventions that encourage strengths of character. Here we describe what is known about the cultivation of these strengths of character, especially those that comprise wisdom" (Park & Peterson, 2009, p. 60).

"We assume that character strengths are individual differences with some stability and generality. However, we do not regard them as fixed or grounded in immutable biogenetic characteristics. In keeping with a premise of positive psychology, we further assume that good character is more than bad character negated or minimized. Character strengths must be studied and developed in their own right" (Park & Peterson, 2009, p. 60).

Criteria for a Character Strength

"Enabling factors are "naturally-occurring" features of the person or environment that make the strength more likely to occur. Societal institutions are existing social groups thought to encourage the strength among its members. Deliberate interventions refer to programs undertaken by psychologists, educators, and others with the explicit goal of building the strength. Taken together, these ideas provide for each strength a starting point for planning how to teach that strength" (Park & Peterson, 2009, p. 63).

"One nonetheless would probably want to emphasize some strengths rather than others in any deliberate attempt to cultivate good character. One's own values or those in an existing setting might dictate which character strengths are chosen as intervention targets,  … " (Park & Peterson, 2009, p. 64).

"Besides happiness, strengths of character have quickly surfaced as one of the most popular subjects in positive psychology. Strengths have been defined as pre-existing qualities that reflect an authentic version of the self and, when used, are intrinsically desirable and energizing, thereby increasing the probability of healthy outcomes (Linley, 2008; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). In one of the foremost achievements in positive psychology, Peterson and Seligman created a catalog of strengths of character that are purported to be invariant across history and culture. Their efforts led to a final tally of 24 strengths and the creation of an extensive battery of assessment tools including a 240-item self-report questionnaire—Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Peterson & Seligman, 2004)" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 12).

"Going forward, researchers can assess strengths as situationally based judgments, behaviors, and reactions as a complement to a trait approach. That is, both the endorsement and use of strengths in a given moment can vary depending on what is happening in a given moment. Possessing strengths is not synonymous with using strengths" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, pp. 12-13).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.24 Seligman and positive psychology

Commentary: Some of the criticisms have been leveled at the manner in which Seligman has presented his ideas. For example, Seligman has largely introduced the area as if it was his single–handed creation and has overlooked the historical foundations of positive approaches to mental health and psychology preceding his contribution (Becker & Marecek, 2008; Cowen & Kilmer, 2002; Froh, 2004; Held, 2005).

Comment: Here is an example of Seligman's ego: "Finally, if psychology still exists in the year 3000 (the age of "knowing" by then could have given way to the age of "the known" or the species could be extinct), historians may look back to the January 2000 issue of the American Psychologist to assess progress. This millennial issue will be devoted to what we know about positive psychology." (Seligman, 1998c).

"Bizarre as it may sound, I believed that I had a mission, but I did not know what the mission was. I believed that if I found myself in the position of leading American psychology, I would discover my mission. And, in that role, I did. That mission was, and is, to help build positive psychology" (Seligman, 2003, p. xix).

"Martin E. P. Seligman, in his 1998 APA Presidential Address, is said to have introduced positive psychology to the American Psychological Association" (Froh, 2004, p. 18).

Wade (2005) wrote: "Now Seligman is famous again, this time for creating the field of positive psychology."

Comment: Based upon my reading, I could not agree with this comment more: "The current approach by the leader and founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, leaves it open to challenge and critique for offering a fool's gold in light of the complexity and unpredictability of much human behavior. Moreover, the founder's inflexible attitudes concerning what does and does not constitute knowledge production have resulted in a series of contradictions, because he and his new movement have become constrained by a dogmatic set of rules and regulations" (McDonald & O'Callaghan, 2008, 138).

"'To see this number of people here 10 years after Marty [Seligman] founded positive psychology is a remarkable achievement,' Ed Diener, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana– Champaign and president of the association, told the enthusiastic crowd. 'We've made huge inroads.' (Ruark, 2009, para. 2).

Inconsistencies in Seligman?

"We well recognize that positive psychology is not a new idea. It has many distinguished ancestors, and we make no claim of originality. However, these ancestors somehow failed to attract a cumulative, empirical body of research to ground their ideas" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 13).

Comment: However, it would see that Seligman is trying to make some sort of claim for originality, balanced only on the thin distinction between "health" and "psychology" we see in 2008 he is saying this: "I propose a new field: positive health. Positive health describes a state beyond the mere absence of disease and is definable and measurable. Positive health can be operationalised by a combination of excellent status on biological, subjective, and functional measures" (Seligman, 2008, p. 3).

Comment: Seligman was initially explicit about trying to create psychology outside of the health care system: "Can an economically viable profession of Positive psychology emerge outside the health care system?" (Seligman, 1998c, p. 2). Seligman derided psychology for becoming "a mere subfield of the health professions" as evidenced in this quotation: "The downside, however, was that the other two fundamental missions of psychology––making the lives of all people better and nurturing genius––were all but forgotten. It wasn't only the subject matter that was altered by funding, but the currency of the theories underpinning how psychologists viewed themselves. They came to see themselves as part of a mere subfield of the health professions, and psychology became a victimology" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6). Then, perhaps to hedge his bets, in 2008 Seligman proposed to create a field of "positive health."

The origins of positive psychology:

The Nikki version:

Seligman tells the story over and over how he initially came up with the idea of positive psychology–talking about his daughter Nikki in the garden (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman, 2002a; Seligman, 2002b; Seligman, 2003). Somewhat confusingly, now, Seligman (2011) says: "The real way positive psychology got its start has been a secret until now" and goes on to relate how, in 1997, he got summoned to an anonymous philanthropic foundation and told by their lawyers that he had been called because "[you] are a winner" and, after a 10 minute presentation and a subsequent three page proposal, they proceeded to give him $1.5 million to start research on positive psychology. This time, although he describes in some detail choosing what shirt to wear, there is no mention of Nikki in his description.

The Hawaii version: Seligman as heroic lifeguard.

Seligman: "'Someone's yelling, daddy?' Lara, the most sharp-eared among us, said urgently, pointing toward the sea. Sure enough, down in the surf was a snowy-haired man, being pounded against the lava walls, razor sharp with barnacles, and then being tossed back out into the turbulence. He looked like a smaller and more unseaworthy version of Moby Dick, except for the blood on his chest and face and the single swim fin dangling from his left foot. I ran down and waded in. The thick rubber-soled shoes I had on made getting to him easy, but the fellow was big (quite a bit bigger than my 200 pounds), and lugging him out was not as simple.
When we finally made it back, through his panting, I could make out a cultivated middle-European accent.
When the last sputtering cough died, his St. Nicholas face exploded into the widest of smiles, and he gave me a big hug. We spent the next two days in unbroken conversation" (Seligman, 2002, p. 113).

Csikszentmihalyi: They meet on the beach

Csikszentmihalyi: "Ten years ago my wife and I (the first author) took a week off in the middle of winter and rented a tropical hut at a resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. After a few days, completely unexpectedly, I ran into a hearty fellow walking along the beach who introduced himself as Marty Seligman. Of course we knew about each other's work, and we had passed each other at conferences before, but we had never really had a chance to talk.
It turned out that Marty and his family were spending a week at the same resort we were. For the rest of our stay, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we exchanged ideas as to what we thought the future of psychology ought to be. This question was especially timely for Marty because the following year he was going to take over the presidency of the American Psychological Association, and he was thinking about the kind of legacy he would like to leave behind" (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 2011, p. 3)

Thomsen: "Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was celebrating his thirty-fifth wedding anniversary on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1998. One afternoon, tired of the pool and the shallow water around the resort, he decided to swim out of the bay and into the ocean beyond. "The current took me, and with the big waves, pretty soon I was a half mile from the entrance to the bay," he recalls. "I got scared, because all there was were large, rough, black lava rocks on the shore. I swam to them, hoping to find a place to climb out, but the waves kept slamming me into the rocks. I was bloody all over. A couple of times I almost passed out." What happened next is subject to the variations of individual memory. Martin Seligman's memory is that he waded in to help rescue Csikszentmihalyi from the water. As Csikszentmihalyi remembers it, he was able to propel himself out of the sea despite "looking like raw hamburger." While he was staggering back to the resort on a small pathway, he recalls, a man approached him and offered to take him to the first aid station. "Halfway back he says to me, 'Aren't you Mike Csikszentmihalyi? I'm Marty Seligman.' We had met at a conference 20 years before." Whichever version is more accurate, what followed is clear: the two renowned psychologists spent the next couple of days in a nearly unbroken stream of conversation. Seligman was soon to begin his term as president of the American Psychological Association and was looking to leave a legacy. "I have recently decided we have devoted too much time to understanding the negative aspects of life," he confided. They talked about Csikszentmihalyi's work on flow—the psychology of optimal experience, the phenomenon that sometimes accompanies activities having the right balance of skill and challenge that people find completely engrossing. His study dovetailed nicely with Seligman's work on optimism and offered direction for research about human strengths, not merely focused on mental illness. Before they left the island, they had formed a partnership that would expand to include other likeminded professionals and bear fruit in a new direction for the discipline of psychology" (Thomsen, 2004, p. 14). "Seligman lauds Csikszentmihalyi as "the brains and historical anchor of the operation" in Positive Psychology, dubbing himself "the cheerleader."" (Thomsen, 2004, p. 15). [This is from the magazine of Claremont graduate University. Csikszentmihalyi is on faculty there. Marilyn Thomsen was the editor of the magazine when she wrote this article.]

Seligman (2011), also contains what would seem to be an inconsistency: the lawyers mentioned above e–mail him and ask him if the "Is the Mandela–Milosevic dimension a continuum?" Seligman says he then wrote a "scholarly and lengthy response" to the question. My problem is with the question in the first place. Ostensibly, from what I can see, Seligman introduced the "Mandela–Milosevic continuum" in a project he did on humane versus inhumane leadership. All of the references I can find to this always have the connotation of a continuum being associated with it so, it's a bit confusing why these "smart" lawyers would ask if it was a continuum. See: Humane Leadership Progress Report 2000

"As a society, our concern with damage has turned into a preoccupation with protecting our children. We cringe when we imagine our children failing and becoming immersed in self–doubt and hopelessness. The desire to protect is, in part, the basis for the self–esteem movement that emerged in California in the 1960s. This movement's primary goal is to bolster children's feelings of self– worth and insulate them from experiences that might shatter their self–confidence" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s166). Yet, after so clearly criticizing the idea of protection, just three pages later in the same article, Seligman says "For example, we might consider the skills and strengths that protect people from mental illness" (Gillham & Seligman, 1999, p. s169).

Psychology can fix most things: "At least 14 disorders, previously intractable, have yielded their secrets to science and can now be either cured or considerably relieved (Seligman, 1994)" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6). Versus no, it can't: "It is a supplement, not a replacement, for the science and practice of relieving suffering. We believe that soldiers with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other disorders should continue to receive the best of treatments. We are also mindful, however, that the known treatments are of limited effectiveness (Seligman, 1993, 2006) "(Seligman & Fowler, 2011, p. 86).

Self plagiarism

I am not an ethics expert but these days I notice more of an emphasis on self plagiarism, especially so if an author presents data or research results more than once. I'm not sure about the appropriateness of Seligman repeating large sections of his text word for word in various publications. For example, he tells the story about his daughter, Nikki, several times (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman, 2002a; Seligman, 2002b; Seligman, 2003)

Compare these two passages:
One: "Two personal stories, one told by each author, explain how we arrived at the conviction that a movement toward positive psychology was needed and how this special issue of the American Psychologist came about. For Martin E. P. Seligman, it began at a moment a few months after being elected president of the American Psychological Association: The moment took place in my garden while I was weeding with my five–year–old daughter, Nikki. I have to confess that even though I write books about children, I'm really not all that good with children. I am goal oriented and time urgent, and when I'm weeding in the garden, I'm actually trying to get the weeding done. Nikki, however, was throwing weeds into the air, singing, and dancing around. I yelled at her. She walked away, then came back and said, "Daddy, I want to talk to you." "Yes, Nikki?" "Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday? From the time I was three to the time I was five, I was a whiner. I whined every day. When I turned five, I decided not to whine anymore. That was the hardest thing I've ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch." This was for me an epiphany, nothing less. I learned something about Nikki, about raising kids, about myself, and a great deal about my profession. First, I realized that raising Nikki was not about correcting whining. Nikki did that herself. Rather, I realized that raising Nikki is about taking this marvelous strength she has––I call it "seeing into the soul"––amplifying it, nurturing it, helping her to lead her life around it to buffer against her weaknesses and the storms of life. Raising children, I realized, is vastly more than fixing what is wrong with them. It is about identifying and nurturing their strongest qualities, what they own and are best at, and helping them find niches in which they can best live out these strengths" (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, pp. 5–6).

Passage two: "The notion of a positive psychology movement began at a moment in time a few months after I had been elected president of the American Psychological Association. It took place in my garden while I was weeding with my 5– year–old daughter, Nikki. I have to confess that even though I write books about children, I'm really not all that good with them. I am goal oriented and time–urgent, and when I am weeding in the garden, I am actually trying to get the weeding done. Nikki, however, was throwing weeds into the air and dancing around. I yelled at her. She walked away, came back, and said, "Daddy, I want to talk to you." "Yes, Nikki?" "Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday? From the time I was three to the time I was five, I was a whiner. I whined every day. When I turned five, I decided not to whine anymore. That was the hardest thing I've ever"  …  ( Seligman, 2002b, p. 3).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.25 Future issues facing positive psychology

"We now need to call for massive research on human strength and virtue. We need to develop a nosology of human strength— the "UNDSM–I", the opposite of DSM–IV. We need to measure reliably and validly these strengths. We need to do the appropriate longitudinal studies and experiments to understand how these strengths grow (or are stunted; Vaillant, 2000). We need to develop and test interventions to build these strengths" (Seligman, 2002b, p. 5).

"The future task of positive psychology is to understand the factors that build strengths, outline the contexts of resilience, ascertain the role of positive experiences, and delineate the function of positive relationships with others. Positive psychology needs to understand how all of these factors contribute to physical health, subjective well–being, functional groups, and flourishing institutions. Ultimately, positive psychology needs to develop effective interventions to increase and sustain these processes" (Gable & Haidt, 2005, p. 108).

"In all, then, there is an urgent need to move to a higher level of knowing concerning positive psychology, its implicit values and assumptions, and the culture from which it has sprung" (Christopher & Campbell, 2008, p. 692).

"We believe that positive psychology needs to broaden these concerns and address such questions as: What kind of a person is satisfied given the current state of the world? Where do we draw the boundary around the socio–political issues a positive psychology should address? What is our moral responsibility regarding the focus of the field when as many as half the children in the world go to bed hungry at night and dysentery is the leading cause of death? What is the role of positive psychology in cultivating outlooks, values, and lifestyles that are environmentally sustainable and stem the ongoing search for ever cheaper labor markets to exploit?" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 565).

"Positive psychology requires a philosophy of social science that is robust enough to handle ontological, epistemological, and ethical/moral issues and move beyond both objectivism and relativism" (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008, p. 581).

In their important article, McNulty and Fincham (2011) make several recommendations for the future of positive psychology.
"First, psychologists need to move beyond examining the main effects of traits and processes that may promote well–being on average to study the factors that determine when, for whom, and to what extent those factors are associated with well–being"
"Our review suggests that the psychological characteristics that benefit people experiencing optimal circumstances may not only fail to help people experiencing suboptimal circumstances, [people seeking therapy] but may harm them"
"Second, to adequately capture the moderating role of various contextual factors, we need to study the implications of psychological characteristics in the context of both health and dysfunction and in the context of both happy and unhappy people"
"As our review makes clear, the processes that benefit people facing optimal circumstances can harm people facing suboptimal circumstances. Accordingly, understanding how to relieve suffering requires studying people who are suffering, and understanding how to prevent suffering requires studying people at risk for suffering"
"Third, researchers need to move beyond cross–sectional studies to examine the implications of psychological traits and processes over substantial periods of time"
[Fourth] "Specifically, as earlier critics of positive psychology have contended (e.g., Lazarus, 2003), psychologists need to move beyond labeling psychological traits and processes as positive. Continuing to do so imposes values on science that influence not only what we study but also what we predict and thus report"
"we argue that positive psychology needs to be thought of as just plain psychology before psychologists can have a fuller understanding of the complete human condition. That is, an understanding of the complete human condition requires recognizing that psychological traits and processes are not inherently positive or negative—whether they have positive or negative implications depends on the context in which they operate. Psychology is not positive or negative—psychology is psychology" (McNulty & Fincham, 2011, pp. 6–8).

"If positive psychology is going to progress at the scientific and applied level, context can no longer be underappreciated, ignored, and untreated" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 13).

"If we believe that strengths and well-being are dynamic, flexible, broad concepts, then our tools need to be sensitive to these dimensions (and global surveys are, by design, insensitive to time and context). If we believe that self-regulation often occurs outside of conscious awareness, then we are going to require non-obtrusive, implicit measures and not rely solely on face-valid, explicit measures" (Kashdan & Steger, 2011, p. 14).


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.26 Other approaches related to positive psychology

Jahoda's (1958) discussion of positive mental health featured what she viewed as six of its basic components: (a) positive self–attitudes; (b) wholesome growth, development and self–actualization; (c) integration– a central synthesizing psychological function; (d) the ability to function autonomously; (e) an accurate perception of reality; and (f) mastery of one's environment.

Self–Determination Theory (SDT) (Deci and Ryan, 1985): proposes that there are three basic needs; the need for autonomy, need for relatedness, and the need for competence, which are vital for well–being. SDT has been applied to work settings (e.g., Baard et al., 2004, Ilardi, et al., 1993). SDT suggests that higher support for autonomy in work settings would lead to higher degrees of need satisfaction and in turn higher well–being for employees.

"Subjective Well Being" theories (SWB) of happiness associated with Daniel Kahneman and with Ed Diener

"Diener, who has studied SWB for over a quarter century, argues "SWB includes diverse concepts ranging from momentary moods to global judgments of life satisfaction, and from depression to euphoria" (Diener, Scollon and Lucas, 2003, p.188). What SWB captures is the individual's own subjective assessment of his own life, and this assessment includes general satisfaction with one's life, satisfaction with specific domains of one's life, and the amounts of positive and negative emotion" (Jayawickreme, Pawelski, & Seligman, 2009, p. 21). In Diener's work, 'subjective well–being' is used synonymously with 'hedonic well–being.' Diener considers subjective well–being as the experience of high levels of pleasant emotions and moods, low levels of negative emotions and moods, and high life satisfaction.

The capability approach (Capabilities theory) to well–being: developed during the last two decades by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum

Happiness Approach to well–being, by Richard Easterlin: The Easterlin Paradox is a key concept in happiness economics. Easterlin found that within a given country people with higher incomes are more likely to report being happy. However, in international comparisons the average reported level of happiness does not vary much with national income per person, at least for countries with income sufficient to meet basic needs. Similarly, although income per person rose steadily in the United States between 1946 and 1970, average reported happiness showed no long–term trend and declined between 1960 and 1970. The implication for government policy is that once basic needs are met, policy should focus not on economic growth or GDP, but rather on increasing life satisfaction or Gross national happiness (GNH). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easterlin_paradox See: (Easterlin, McVey, Switek, Sawangfa, & Zweig, 2010).

The Balanced Integration Differentiation (BID) Model (Imamoglu, 1998; 2003) proposes that individuational and relational orientations are distinct and complementary constructs which are essential for optimal human functioning. The model proposes four self construal types that vary along dimensions of individuational and relational orientations (Imamoglu 1998; 2003).

The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Barbara L Fredrickson The broaden–and–build theory describes the form and function of a subset of positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment and love. A key proposition is that these positive emotions broaden an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savour and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions (i.e. specific action tendencies, such as attack or flee). A second key proposition concerns the consequences of these broadened mindsets: by broadening an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire––whether through play, exploration or similar activities––positive emotions promote discovery of novel and creative actions, ideas and social bonds, which in turn build that individual's personal resources; ranging from physical and intellectual resources, to social and psychological resources. Importantly, these resources function as reserves that can be drawn on later to improve the odds of successful coping and survival.


⚀ 2012 A.2.2.27 Positive psychology as it relates to Dąbrowski.

In reviewing this material, several approaches relating to Dąbrowski were uncovered that I have not been familiar with before.

"Every individual seeks to assert himself, to be independent, to express himself in accordance with his own peculiar temperament. But the harsh world of reality, in the form of dangerous parental and social prohibitions, and the relentless right-of-way of objects, cannot be easily overcome. Problems and dangers which cannot be conquered oppose the individual. The unknown is feared. Security, warmth, protection, and dependence is longed for, sought for, and achieved - only to be repudiated by the incessant demand to express oneself, to dominate - and the pendulum starts its counterswing. One rebels at being dependent and secure, settled and safe. The urge to dominate, to express one's peculiar difference, to be an independent individual, reasserts itself. More prohibitions and other dangers are encountered giving rise to fear and the need for security and dependence. The pendulum repeats its arc although in a slightly different path directed by the ever new constellation of experience" (Cantor, 1941, p. 678).

"Most people achieve a working balance between the claims of self and society or reality which is discovered and rediscovered in the light of their own dynamic experience. The achievement is neither static nor gained without ceaseless struggle. The balance is constantly being shifted, redefined, and paid for at the cost of emotional disturbance to the self and to others" (Cantor, 1941, p. 678).

"When emotional stresses become too intense some individuals are unable to make normal adjustments. These deviating types become either creators or destroyers. Social maladjustment, that is, behaving differently from accepted normal standards, can assume creative forms in art, science, business, politics, religion, industry, or personal relations. In these instances the individual dares to be himself, he is unafraid to express is differences. He stands out because of his strength, the positive organization of his personality-pattern, and he is ready to accept the consequences of daring to be different" (Cantor, 1941, p. 682).

"Anyone who has achieved a satisfactory dynamic balance between the need for self-expression and the need for self-repression has a normal personality" (Cantor, 1941, p. 682).

"to properly consider optimal human being we must consider all the different levels, or facets, of a person—that is, the biochemical, neuronal, cognitive, personality, social, and cultural factors that each make unique contributions to human behavior" (Sheldon, 2004, p. viii).

"optimal personality functioning is not defined in terms of any particular constructs (i.e., via high self-esteem, self-regulation, self-actualization, subjective well-being, ego development, etc.), but rather is understood to be inclusive of a wide variety of such constructs. 5

Runyan supports the importance of psychobiography, a technique used by Dąbrowski and by positive psychologists. "The discussion is intended to raise basic issues encountered in applying personality theories to the life of a single individual, whether a historical figure, a research subject, or a clinical patient" (Runyan, 1981, p. 1070).

"the problem of developing explanations of events in individual lives deserves our critical attention as it is inevitably encountered in everyday life and is a crucial task within personology, psychobiography, and the clinical professions" (Runyan, 1981, p. 1076).

A philosophical dichotomy can be seen in approaches to individual development. Kendler (1999) differentiates a Newtonian approach to science assuming that valid knowledge of the material world can be known through the methods of natural science (positivism i.e., the degree to which phenomena could be positively or exactly determined) versus a more holistic approach that emphasized subjective experience and suggested the possibility of scientific discovery beyond a materialistic perspective, for example, including value judgments. Goethe and Hegel carried the latter interpretation forward to German intellectuals.

Kendler (1999) noted that the gestalt psychologists adopted this position and ultimately suggested psychology could use scientific facts to inform moral truth as shown in the works of Wundt and Kurt Goldstein. Goldstein subsequently influenced Maslow and his approach in perceiving the self as a central concept and in viewing the self as having potential for expansion and growth.

Maslow suggested that you could identify exemplars of development and study them scientifically to reveal their characteristics. Kendler (1999, p. 830) was sharply critical of this idea, saying, "Maslow shaped his evidence to create a tautological relationship between facts and values to give the impression that his values were justified by empirical data. He simply selected people who shared his moral code and his conception of fulfillment and thus assigned them the honorific status of being self-actualized."

Kendler (1999) goes on to build the case that the holistic approach in which human values can be informed by science is false. He is critical of the idea "that values inhere in human experience; they have the quality of objective requiredness. By perceiving one's own values as empirical facts, one is afforded a sense and direction in one's life" (Kendler, 1999, p. 830).

Kendler (1999) rejects the notion that we can move from what is by generating a conceptualization of what ought to be. "The argument that an enchanted view of science can reveal moral principles that are right for humankind fails to offer a coherent prescription as to how this goal is to be attained. The assumption that psychological facts will lead directly to moral truths is contradicted by the failure of is to logically generate ought. In addition, the premise that a monistic moral code exists that is 'right for humankind' is on equally shaky ground" (Kendler, 1999, p. 832).

Kendler (1999) notes that it is easy to conflate facts with values but difficult to keep them separate. "moral guidelines are needed in an ethically pluralistic society, but they cannot be set in stone. They require constant evaluation to determine their consequences so that the functional value of moral pluralism will not be endangered either by disruptive moral conflicts or by intolerant restrictions. One must realize that the delineation of moral boundaries in a pluralist society can be approached but never finalized. It must remain a work in progress! A continuous surveillance of the consequences of the guiding moral principles will be needed to elevate the acceptability and effectiveness of social policies" (Kendler, 1999, p. 832).

"The enchanted view of science, which assumes that values are embedded in facts, fails to meet standards of natural-science methodology. This limitation does not faze those psychologists who believe that their primary mission is to create a just society inhabited by fulfilled individuals" (Kendler, 1999, p. 831).

The issue of how we define mental health is part of Kendler's (1999) formulation. Should we define mental health positively or negatively? "Two obstacles prevent psychology from defining the good life. The first obstacle is the inability of facts to justify values logically, and the second is moral pluralism. The error made by those who preach a positive conception of mental health is that they believe a positive conception is symmetrical with a negative one. Their argument is that value judgments are made on each side. Although correct, the kind of value judgment made in each situation is strikingly different" (Kendler, 1999, p. 834). Kendler goes on to conclude that a negative conceptualization of mental health is necessary to serve the needs of society and meet the demands of science.


"it seems that the field of positive psychology (and perhaps psychology more generally) is in need of an integrative conceptual and empirical framework in which to a) conceptually unify diverse topics within positive psychology, and b) determine which positive psychology constructs are most essential for bringing about the various positive outcomes of interest. I will briefly describe the candidate model and approach offered in Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-level Perspective (Sheldon, 2004). The model attempts to provide a framework for achieving consilience (Wilson, 1998) between the different levels of science; this must in principle be possible, because they are all operating within a singular, self-consistent reality" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 422). Comment: this approach is very reminiscent of Miller (1978) and his living systems theory. Miller's monumental 1978 book of over 1100 pages detailed the various levels and interactions of general systems theory applied to life. This approach might be contrasted with more specific descriptions of levels or developmental levels, either in psychology in general, or subsets thereof. For example, Jane Loevinger's stages of ego development, Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development, Erik Erikson's developmental stages, or Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Dąbrowski's levels fall in the latter category.

Sheldon uses his Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC) model to examine subjective well-being (SWB) (Sheldon, Cheng, & Hilpert, 2011).


"We hope we have successfully reemphasized the point that multiple levels of analysis need to be simultaneously considered for a complete explanation of almost any human phenomenon, including the phenomenon of SWB. The MPIC model, representing the upper part of a more general causal hierarchy, was described. In the second part of the article we tried to show that much of what is already known about SWB can be contextualized within the MPIC model, as either level main effects or cross-level interactions" (Sheldon, Cheng, & Hilpert, 2011, p. 14).

"The MPIC model is not conceived of as a theory to be tested, but rather as a heuristic framework in which to consider "the biggest picture" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 52).

"Each level is thought to build on the provisions of all of the levels below, adding a new layer of organization on top. Cognitive processes could not exist without neural machinery, but once such machinery is present and functioning, cognitive processes emerge that make use of that machinery to derive pragmatic solutions to adaptive problems. Personality processes require cognitive processes, but once such exist, personality processes emerge to make use of cognitive processes to pursue the person's goals and needs" (Sheldon, 2011, p. 53).

McAdams notes that he has used the term "level" in many different and inconsistent ways and offers several important insights into the use of levels. (McAdams & Manczak, 2011).

"One of the features of hierarchical models that we find especially compelling is the way in which principles at lower levels constrain the operations of higher levels while higher levels reach back down to reorganize lower levels. Sheldon et al. (this issue) show a keen understanding of the interplay between reductionism and higher order emergence across levels" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 40).

"By the early 1990s, the once reviled concept of the dispositional trait had made an extraordinary comeback in personality psychology  …  [due to] mounting empirical evidence for longitudinal (interindividual) stability in trait scores  …  [the] evidence for stability was so strong that some psychologists began to wonder if personality itself can change in any meaningful way after, say, age 30" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 41).

McAdams' approach shows development over time: (1994) "McAdams argued that other features of what many psychologists consider to be personality—such as motives, coping strategies, values and interests, narrative self-conceptions, and so on—may reveal more change across the human life course. Whereas those relatively stable dispositional traits may reside at the first level of personality, McAdams (1994) claimed, motives and goals (and related personal concerns) seem to compose a second, more changeable level, and people's life stories (internalized and evolving narratives of the self that become increasingly prominent as features of human personality as people move into adulthood; McAdams, 1985) sit at a third" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 41).

McAdams (1995) "personality psychologists obtain a first cut of personality from a trait score. As we get to know people better, however, we move beyond traits to deeper levels of personality (e.g., motives, goals, life stories). The essential meaning here is a level of understanding . A deeper level is one where the perceiver knows more. With respect to person perception, then, traits lie on the surface (they are not deep), goals and motives reside further in, and a person's life story is deepest in the sense that it is harder to get at upon a casual meeting, requires more work to perceive in full" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 41).

"Because life stories are deeper in, are life stories more "authentic," more revealing of the "true self" than traits? (Answer: Some people think so, but we are not sure. We see the whole idea of "authenticity" and "true self" to be social and cultural constructions that have evolved out of an Emersonian streak of American Romanticism; McAdams, 2006)"(McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 42).

"dispositional traits, motives and goals (and related constructs), and life stories  …  Rather than thinking about these three features as levels in a strict hierarchy, therefore, we argue that they are best viewed as successively emerging layers of personality development"  …  "We begin life as social actors , endowed with the temperament tendencies that will eventually morph into the dispositional traits that so strongly shape social performance while also comprising the first layer of personality. A second layer begins to take form in the elementary school years, when children become self-consciously motivated agents who set forth goals, projects, and value-driven programs for their lives, and direct their behavior accordingly. As Layers 1 (dispositional traits; the self as actor) and 2 (personal goals and their motivational accouterments; the self as agent) continue to develop over time, a third layer eventually emerges (especially important under the aegis of cultural modernity; McAdams, 1996) when the young adult confronts the identity challenges of his or her society and begins to author a narrative identity. As we move through adulthood, personality continues to develop, with life stories layered over goals and motives, which are layered over dispositional traits. (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 42).

"Personality begins with traits —the developmental foundation. Personal goals (goals that consistently differentiate you from me) emerge later, after the child has (a) developed the realization that people's behavior is largely motivated by internalized goals (theory of mind; Wellman, 1993) and (b) come to understand his or her own daily life in terms of choices made, intentions realized or thwarted, and success and failure in goal pursuit" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 42).

"a third layer of personality begins to emerge as young adults seek an identity in the world. As Erikson suggested, identity is an arrangement of the self that manages to provide adult life with some degree of unity and purpose. As a product of the self's desire to make meaning out of the complexities of adult life (especially as played out against the backdrop of a modern society), identity can come to include many different psychological qualities. But central to the identity quest in adulthood is the psychosocial construction of a life story. That story— [is] narrative identity" (McAdams & Manczak, 2011, p. 43).


⧈ 2012 A.2.3

Maslow 1954 Motivation and personality, chapter 18 and appendix

↩ Main.