Positive Psychology

At this juncture, the social and behavioural sciences can play an enormously important role. They can articulate a vision of the good life that is empirically sound while being understandable and attractive. They can show what actions lead to well-being, to positive individuals, and to thriving communities. Psychology should be able to help document what kinds of families result in children who flourish, what work settings support the greatest satisfaction among workers, what policies result in the strongest civic engagement, and how people’s lives can be most worth living.

Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2000)


The vision for psychology

Set out by the founders of the new Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Criticisms of 'traditional' psychology

The following is a list of some of the main criticisms Seligman and others advance against traditional, empirical psychology:

Differences between Positive Thinking and Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is different from ?Positive Thinking? in a number of fundamental respects.

The negative brain

Evolution has ensured that we are quick to attend to potential threats around us, by providing us with an attentional system which orientates to the negative aspects of our environment

The role of positive emotion

Positive affect - positive emotions, positive moods and positive attitudes may in fact be the single most important active ingredient in the recipe for human flourishing (Barbara Fredrickson, 2005)

The Positive Psychology paradox

There is a paradox at the heart of Positive Psychology. And it is this: the brain finds it very easy to be negative but it is very important for human beings to experience positive emotions as it is in this emotional state that we build our health, our relationships and our intellectual and psychological reserves.

The story of Positive Psychology

Since his ground-breaking learned helplessness experiments on dogs in the 1960s, Martin Seligman has towered over psychology both in the USA and abroad.

Key ideas i. Flow

An important concept in Positive Psycholgy is 'flow'. This is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a result of studies he undertook on what gives people enjoyment.

Key ideas ii. Building on strengths

As we have seen the focus of Positive Psychology is 'optimal human functioning' - it is about studying and understanding people at their best.

Key ideas iii. Signature strengths

Traditional, disease focused psychology has revolved round the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM).

Alex Linley's views on strengths

Alex Linley, the founder of Positive Psychology Centre CAPP and international expert on strengths, has brought together research findings on strengths and their applications in his recent book 'Average to A+'. In the book, Linley outlines his unique approach to identifying and nurturing strengths.