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25 Nov 2012
January 3rd
One of the oldest topics but also the newest field of psychology
Positive psychology is essentially how to live a good life
Attention between two things (defining personality in subjective terms what makes you feel
how you do as an individual person; and a broader view in understanding positive psychology
our relationship with others; you just cannot only consider the good life of a single person but
society as a whole because they interact with others as well) in our understanding of positive
Complementary to abnormal psychology and the psychology of personality
Statistical Criteria
Individuals significantly above the mean in positive qualities (emotions, traits and cognitions)
and/or below the mean in negative emotions, traits and cognitions
o Low in anxiety, low in depressive symptoms, etc
Personal Satisfaction
Individuals pleased with the emotions, traits and cognitions if they feel good about their
thoughts and behaviours
Adaptive Criteria
Individuals with emotions, traits and cognitions that make it easier for them to succeed in life
and work
Sociocultural Criteria
Individuals with emotions, traits and cognitions that are valued by their culture or society
Seligman and Csikszenmihaly (2000)
“Positive psychology is about valued subjective experiences (how you feel about it): well-being,
contentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and flow (similar to
peak experiences) and happiness (in the present). At the individual level, it is about positive individual
traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance,
forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, 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
Avoidable training you learn to avoid troubling situations
o Dogs were put in a shuffleboard with a small barrier between them; shock was
administered every minute and the dog would jump to the side where it was safe;
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eventually, the dogs would jump to the other side, even before the shock was
Unavoidable training you learn to accept the troubling situation and do nothing to get over it
o Same situation as before but the barrier was raised so that the dog couldn’t jump over it
and they would just receive the shock and couldn’t do anything about it
Learned helplessness you are in a troubling situation and have an alternative way to get out of
it but don’t do it because you haven’t learned how to as yet
o Dogs that got unavoidable training first then got avoidable training didn’t jump over to
the other side but still received the shock because they had learned that in this
situation, they are going to get hurt no matter what
What about learned optimism?
o We can learn to see the positive side of events which is what positive psychology is
Gable and Haidt (2005)
“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 is right and what is improving…positive psychology is simply psychology
Basically the same as the aforementioned case
Journal of Positive Psychology
“Positive psychology is about scientifically informed perspectives on what makes life worth living. It
focuses on aspects of the human condition that lead to happiness, fulfillment and flourishing”
Positive Psychology Center, Penn
“Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and
communities to thrive. Positive psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive
individuals’ traits and positive institutions. Understanding positive emotions entail the study of
contentment with the past, happiness in the present and hope for the future. Understanding positive
individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work,
courage, compassion, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. An understanding positive institution
entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility,
parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose and tolerance
Scientific study is very important in the understanding of positive psychology
We need to start with philosophy to get an understanding of positive psychology in fact all
sciences started off with an understanding of philosophy
Aristotle and the Good Life
The Good Life = the happy life
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o It was personal happiness…but what makes you happy?
The Good Life = functioning well as person
o This makes a person happy within society…but what causes you to function well?
Functioning well = living a life of virtue
o Moral virtue subordinate carnal appetites to reason (nothing in excess)
o Intellectual virtue wisdom and understanding (understanding how the world works)
Virtues are character traits between excess and deficiency
o Virtues are in the middle, not too much of one trait and not too much of a lack of
another nothing in excess
William Bennet and Virtues (1995)
Self discipline
January 5th
Our motivation is to seek pleasure
o Basic human motive hedonism (sex and aggression)
o We try to maximize our pleasure and minimize our discomforts
Life is a struggle between desires and real-world and moral constraints
o What we want (inner desire) and societal expectations (constraints we place on our
choices we make)
Mental health is the ability to work and to love (the good life)
o Love we need the ability to form lasting and intimate relationships with others
o Work terrorist bombers think what they are doing is fine and are happy with it but it is
not helping the greater good of society, thus we want to be productive and inflict a
positive contribution to the society; to generate value in society that is accepted
o Sublimation the defence mechanism where we channel the displace sexual aggression
energy into social valued activities art, science, literature
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