Monday, October 08, 2007

Positive Psychology is Dead ...

[8 October 2007 - Applied Imagination blog - By Steven Dahlberg, Editor] Okay, positive psychology is dead as we've known it ... maybe. Martin Seligman, the father of the positive psychology movement, announced on October 5 that it's "no longer about positive psychology," but about "positive social science. ... this is the tent I'm after now."

Speaking at the Gallup International Positive Psychology Summit, Seligman described this as an epistemological and methodological shift that incorporates not only the psychology field's study of strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive, but also the study and practice of positive approaches in fields such as anthropology, economics, history, sociology, political science, among others.

He suggested that positive social science is made up of these five pillars, which focus on the good life, a life worth living, flourishing, and well-being:
  • Positive emotions, including engagement and happiness.
  • Positive traits, including strengths and virtues and pursuing excellence.
  • Positive relationships.
  • Meaning and purpose.
  • Accomplishment.
As Summit participants and others begin to consider this shift, some have suggested that positive psychology isn't so much a discipline unto itself, but an extension of other-related fields such developmental psychology, personality psychology, social psychology, behavioral psychology and creativity. Others have argued against the use of "positive" at all, favoring something that includes both negative and positive aspects of people's lives and behaviors - something more integrated or holistic.

All of which raises the question: Is positive psychology not a new, stand-alone discipline, but rather a label - an umbrella - that has allowed academics and practitioners doing "positive" work across many disciplines to come together under some common language?

This debate seems destined to grow, given the comments made during a 10-minute Q&A following Seligman's announcement at the Summit. And ironically, just before this announcement, Seligman's colleague, Ed Deiner, launched the new International Positive Psychology Association.

Meanwhile, The Gallup Organization's CEO Jim Clifton announced that Gallup's positive social science emphasis will be on "the new science of behavioral economics," which includes measuring global well-being in the Gallup World Poll.


  1. Positive psychology is probably just beginning - I think that happiness will be a more and more important goal as more of us realize that all other goals have happiness as an expectation. There seems to be something else to Seligman's announcement: we're social beings and our happiness is inextricably linked to our social situation.

  2. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Hi, thanks for sharing your blog