Positive Psychology Articles

Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura (2011): PP: Where did it come from, where is it going?

  • Csikszentmihalyi and Seligman changed psychology from a deficit-orientation to strength-orientation. When founding PP, they focused on involving young scholars rather than established ones, based in part on Kuhn’s dictum that senior scholars would rarely adopt a paradigm shift during their own lifetime.
  • PP: need for bringing back virtues, strengths, and values into mainstream psychology.
  • PP founded with systems model of creativity: First they delineated the domain (a body of knowledge, collection of accepted tools, and set of animating questions and commitments). Second, they attracted individuals to work in the domain, rewarding the promising contributions to the body of knowledge.

Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi (2000): Positive psychology: An introduction

  • Shift from “preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life” to “building positive qualities.” In past (well-being, contentment, satisfaction, future (hope, optimism), and present (flow, happiness).
  • Don’t need to build new sci; need to redirect current science. “Psych can choose to create a scientific monument—a science that takes as its primary task the understanding of what makes life worth living.”
  • Challenges for the Future: Recipe for well-being (doesn’t exits); Development of positivity (ppl change over time); Neuroscience and heritability; Enjoyment (stretch beyond what you are) vs. pleasure; Collective well-being; Authenticity (Common, unspoken assumption in social science: negative traits are authentic while positive traits are compensatory, derivative, or even inauthentic. Two other possibilities: negative traits are derivative from positive traits, or that positive and negative systems are separate systems); Buffering; Descriptive or Prescriptive; Realism

Diener, Lucas, & Scollon (2006): Beyond the hedonic treadmill

  • Hedonic treadmill model: good and bad events affect happiness, but only temporarily. Searching for happiness is futile because people quickly revert back to their hedonic neutrality point.
  • Five revisions to the current treadmill model: (1) Individuals’ set points are not hedonically neutral. Most people are happy most of the time; (2) Peoples’ set points stable over time, heritable, personality factors; (3) A single person may have multiple happiness set points; (4) Different components of well-being (ie: pleasant emotions, life satisfaction) can move in different directions. Happiness in one area may not indicate it in others (ie: work and marriage); (5) Individuals adapt differently – external events may/may not affect their set points.

Gruber & Tamir (2011): A dark side of happiness: How, when, and why happiness is not always good

  • Wrong degree of happiness: Up to a certain point, happiness comes with physical and mental health benefits; however, having more than a moderate amount of positive emotions does not have increased benefits and often comes with a cost (Or Mania)
  • Wrong time for happiness: Negative emotions (fear) are advantageous when faced with danger
  • Wrong ways to pursue: the more ppl pursue happiness, the less likely they are to obtain it.
  • Wrong type of happiness: Hubristic pride (pride without merit) and the absence of guilt.

Peterson, Park, & Seligman (2005): Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction

  • Hedonism – happiness involves maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain
  • Eudemonia – happiness involves developing your own personal strengths and meaning and using
  • Pursuit of engagement – Flow is distinct from both pleasure and meaning, as the pleasure is experienced after the fact, and not all flow-producing activities are meaningful.
  • Each orientation to happiness (pleasure, meaning, and engagement) predicted life satisfaction
  • Pleasure not as strong a predictor of life satisfaction as engagement and meaning
  • Full life consists of high orientation scores in all three areas; empty life of low scores in all three.

Seligman (2011): What is well-being?

  • Authentic Happiness relied too much on happiness as an end goal for PP. The artificial construct “Well Being” is composed of five elements that together describe a new goal for PP: (1) Positive Emotion: Happiness and life satisfaction are demoted from being the goal of the entire theory to merely being one of the factors included under the element of positive emotion. (2) Engagement: Measured only subjectively and retrospectively. (3) Meaning: has a subject component, but the dispassionate and more objective judgment of history, logic, and coherence can contradict a subjective judgment. (4) Accomplishment: Ppl pursue success, accomplishment, winning, and mastery for their own sake. (5) Positive Relationships: Other people are best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.

Bryant & Veroff (2007): Savoring: A new model of positive experience and Enhancing Savoring

  • Focused attention of savoring is what sets it apart from simply experiencing something positive.
  • Three requirements for savoring: being mindfully present, freedom from social and esteem needs as motivations, and focused attention to the positive experience.
  • Obstacles: (1) social responsibility (Ex: a mother busy worrying about social dynamics of her child’s birthday party to savor the experience) (2) Lacking in basic need satisfaction
  • Six techniques for both savoring and coping: social support, writing about life experiences, downward hedonic contrast, humor, spirituality and religion, and awareness of the fleetingness of experience.
  • Hedonic happiness vs. eudemonic happiness: good life is a mixture of the two; “true wisdom” lies in pursuing meaning while fully enjoying pleasure when it comes along.

Fredrickson (2001): The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: Broaden & Build

  • Broaden-and-Build theory: experiences of positive emotions broaden thought-action repertoires, which builds personal resources. Positive affect: flexible, creative, and efficient; accept a broader array
  • Negative emotions narrow by telling the mind to act (escape, attack, expel) quickly. Quick response not needed when experiencing positive emotions.
  • Undoing hypothesis: Positive emotions should undo the effects of negative emotions. Positive emotions experienced after a negative emotion should help speed up the cardiovascular recovery. Study: positive emotion condition experienced faster cardiovascular recovery
  • Broad-minded coping: Positive emotions will build up the resilience, and the effects of positive emotions should accumulate and compound, ultimately improving the individual’s coping resources and enhancing their emotional well-being. (Reverse in depression: pessimistic thinking promotes downward spiral as emotional well-being continues to get worse.

Harmon-Jones, Gable, & Price (2013): Does negative affect always narrow and positive affect broaden?

  • BB: negative affective states cause a narrowing or limiting of cognitive function whereas positive affective states create a broadening. But not true: results based on studies where the negative affective states were of high intensity while the positive states were of low intensity. The narrowing of cognitive function is a function of intensity rather than the valence (positive or negative) of the affective state.

Diener & Emmons (1985): The independence of positive and negative affect

  • Positive and negative are independent but appear to be more independent in the short term and less so in the long term. Unlikely to occur in same person at same time (though mixed emotions occur). The strongest inverse correlations are found when one feels stronger emotions.
  • Study shows the importance of studying mood over a period of time, instead of just as a recalled event.
  • It may be that people who experience emotions more intensely experience them intensely in both domains. This could cause their scores to even out over time.

Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi (2002): The concept of flow

  • Autotelic personality = enjoys life, curious, persistent, selfless, motivated by intrinsic rewards. Flow = intrinsically motivated, rewarding in itself: need skill balance, set goals, feedback on achievement. Attn.
  • Flow requires high levels of challenge and skill, one will eventually master certain challenges, thus developing greater levels of skills. Then, one will often reenter flow.
  • Major contribution of flow to the quality of life is endowing momentary experiences with value.
  • Measure Flow: Interview, Questionnaire, ESM (arousal, flow, control, relaxation, boredom, apathy, worry, anxiety)
  • Measure Autotelic: ESM to measure intrinsic motivation towards high-challenge, high-skill situations
  • Consequences of Flow: an association w achievement in high school, higher self-esteem
  • Nature of Flow: Flow is a self-justifying exp, doesn’t need external motivators. Higher in active activities.
  • Experiences seen as intrinsically rewarding: (1) relaxation, (2) flow. We avoid try to: anxiety, apathy
  • Obstacles: Preference for relaxation vs flow, attitudes to work and play

Csikszentmihalyi & Massimini (1985): On the psychological selection of bio-cultural information

  • Darwinian theory of evolution apply to culture and human behavior? (1) biological selection among genes (2) cultural selection among memes (3) both Psychological selection: attention because of (1) pleasure (2) flow. Evolution built in predisposition to enjoy culture, biology, & consciousness

Shernoff & Csikszentmihalyi (2003): Student Engagement in HS from Perspective of Flow Theory

  • Student problems = underachievement, learning, behavioral and emotional difficulties that may lead to school dropout. Even students who graduate face boredom, alienation, and disconnection with school. The variables that accompany the flow experience are: Concentration, Interest, Enjoyment
  • Success requires engagement. Factors influence engagement: Control over learning, positive emotions, instructional format Flow theory: flow experience occurs when skills not overmatched or underutilized: (1) High Challenge-Low Skill: Anxiety/ (2) Low Chall-High Skill: Relaxation; (3) Low Chall-Low Skill: Apathy
  • ESM study: Most time spent in non-interactive activities. Students most engaged in non-academic subjects (art, vocational ed). Flow = more interest, concentration, and enjoyment. Exams = high intensity low motivation, TV = high motivation but low intensity. SO: Need active/meaningful participation in class

Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi (2003): The construction of meaning through vital engagement

  • Find meaning in life w/ flow: activities of vital engagement. Ppl engrossed interest.
  • Meaning grows from flow in sustained relationship with object. Enjoyable interaction, so meaning of relationship deepens. In an engaged life, enjoyment and subjective meaning = vocation, social relationships, and community involvement (a person’s relationships with world)
  • Flow = focused concentration on present; loss of self-consciousness; sense of control; time passes quickly or slowly; an experience is rewarding in and of itself, regardless of outcome.
  • Parameters of experience that foster the flow: clarity about immediate goals; continuous feedback on progress; opportunities for action w/ existing capacities (balance perceived capacities and challenges)

Emmons (1999): Personal goals and life meaning

  • Meaningful life = deep sense of purpose, inner conviction, and assurance that life has significance. A meaningful life will be filled with rich and varied emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant. Suffering
  • Many studies (breast cancer, HIV+ men) have shown that ability to find ANY meaning in the experience was associated with better social, emotional, and occupational adjustment.
  • Goals are prime components of the meaning-making process. Provide structure, unity, and purpose. Finding meaning in suffering often involves changing fundamental goals, concerns, and values. In a goals framework, adaptation to loss requires relinquishing untenable goals, generating new goals, and developing pathways for their attainment that enable the restoration of meaning and purpose in life.
  • Folkman and Stein: model of stress and coping that focuses on goal processes.
  • Successful coping requires recognizing and disengaging from unrealistic and unattainable goals, and the ability to generate new goals that are personally meaningful, realistic, and attainable.
  • Spiritual goals and commitments play huge role in the restoration of meaning.

Frankl (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning: Logotherapy

  • Life has meaning in all circumstances, even despondent ones.
  • The main motivational force is the desire to find meaning in life.
  • Humanity has the freedom of attitudinal choice, even in situations of unchangeable affliction.
  • Logotherapy: focus on meanings to be fulfilled in future. Search for meaning=primary motivational force

Steger (2009): Meaning in life – purpose (motivational), significance (cognitive)

  • Baumeister’s four domains that give rise to meaning: (1) Feeling a sense of purpose; (2) Having a basis for self-worth; (3) Clarifying values of right and wrong; (4) Developing a sense of efficacy in the world
  • Emmon’s four-part taxonomy of meaning: (1) Work/Achievement; (2) Intimacy/Relationships; (3) Spirituality; Self-transcendence (actively pursuing something outside of our own interests)
  • Those who believe their life has meaning are happier, feel more control over life, engaged in their work, less negative affect, less anxiety, less substance abuse, less workaholism, fewer suicidal thoughts
  • Motivational constructs: important, but too time specific; Frankl’s idea of purpose is more concerned with what people live their lives for than what they focus their efforts on.
  • Cognitive constructs: people focus on selves and world, but meaning involves how they connect.
  • Affective dimension: positive affect and meaning = bidirectional; also possible in suffering
  • Self-transcendence Seligman: meaning comes from dedicating one’s talents to a cause or entity beyond one’s self; Reker & Wong: meaning is experienced more deeply as degree of self-transcendence increases; Frankl: Finding meaning in suffering or traumatic events leads to better outcomes, as Frankl believed. Terror Management Theory (TMT): meaning comes from recognizes our existential nature and attempting to manage our fears of death.

Schneider (2001): In search of realistic optimism: Meaning, knowledge, and warm fuzzies

  • Q: Is Optimistic outlook or realistic outlook better? A: Not mutually exclusive, should be compliments.
  • Reality= “fuzzy meaning” (latitude in interpreting significance of known state of affairs) &“fuzzy knowledge” (captures the extent to which we do not know about them). Gather info to reduce.
  • Distinctions btwn hope & expectation critical to separate realistic & unrealistic opti when predicting risk levels for specific events. Fuzzier the knowledge, less realistic are expectations.
  • Realistic optimism involves hoping and searching for positive experiences while acknowledging what we do not know and accepting what we cannot know. 3 forms: past, present, and future.
    To stop optimism from being deluded, the response style must engage in goals and feedback

Norem & Chang (2002): The positive psychology of negative thinking

  • PP needs to consider the diverse ways individuals achieve positive outcomes and the time frame and relative starting point of individuals’ achievements. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • Optimism, pessimism, positive thinking, and negative thinking, are different
  • The costs and benefits to one form of optimism are not automatically associated with others.
  • Benefit and cost to optimism but factors overemphasize on merits of & under-emphasis of cost
  • PP is not synonymous with positive thinking and optimism. Be sensitive to context.
  • Types: Dispositional opti & pess; opti & pess explanatory styles; Naïve opti; Opti illusions; pess is neurotic & rational; Unrealistic opti & pess; Realistic pess; Defensive pess; Strategic opti
  • Different consequences and implications (Defensive pessi more + outcomes than dispositional)
  • Differ in degree can be changed. Seligman: attributional style is learned and can be changed

Walsh & Shapiro (2006): The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology

  • Three stages of the relationship between WestP and meditative disciplines (1) Prolonged period of mutual ignorance bred misunderstanding; (2) Clash: dismiss or pathologize the other; nihilation: using the distorting lens of their own unquestioned cultural and paradigmatic assumptions; (3) Assimilative integration: greater open-mindedness and mutual exploration. [Misunderstanding remains]
  • Our state of mind is underdeveloped and dysfunctional. Meditation = enhanced capacities: attention; inward-facing consciousness; thought control; lucidity; emotional intelligence; equanimity; unconditionality; motivation; evidence of 12 capacities W dismissed as impossibl
  • WestP (monophasic) = limited additions to meditation practice. Psychologists look at meditation as therapeutic technique. Research findings interpreted exclusively within WestP frameworks, ignoring meditation’s complementary psychological and philosophical perspectives. & Cognitive
  • Topics overlapping in WestP and Meditation: fundamental life concerns (existential psychology), health and human potential (humanistic, transpersonal, and PP), archetypal imagery (Jungian psy), and power and therapeutic potential of thought (cognitive psychology and therapy).
  • Possible collaborations between WestP/meditation: Mutual therapeutic enrichment: meditators progress more quickly in therapy, and psychotherapy may speed meditation progress
  • Complications of mediation practice: “any therapy powerful enough to heal is also powerful enough to harm” – emergence of traumatic memories, existential and spiritual challenges

Emmons & McCullough (2003): Counting blessings versus burdens

  • Grateful responses can lead to peace of mind, happiness, better health, & more satisfying relationships.
  • Can enhance savoring, making enduring happiness possible, thwart adaptation to satisfaction
  • Weekly Gratitude group = greater sense of well-being, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about expectations for upcoming week compared to hassles condition. However, compared to the control group, there were no statistical differences.
  • Daily gratitude for 21 days: Gratitude reported more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, more optimism about upcoming week, and more connected with others than did the control.

Haidt (2003): Elevation and the positive psychology of morality

  • Study of elevation crucial for understanding human morality, three dimensions:
  • Solidarity: horizontal – degree of closeness (affection and mutual obligation) of others to the self
  • Hierarchy: vertical – dimension of power or status
  • Elevation: proposed third dimension – ensures that people interact with others and sacred objects in a way to keep polluted from contaminating the pure (opposite reaction = disgust)
  • Research shows: “different patterns of physical feelings and motivations,” including warm or pleasant feelings in the chest, and a desire to help others or become better people themselves.
  • Happiness “energized people to engage in private or self-interested pursuits,” while elevation “seemed to open people up and turn their attention outward, toward other people.”
  • Haidt proposes that elevation fits with Fredrickson’s (1998) “broaden and build” theory
  • Haidt’s Four Suggestions: (1) Begin w pos emotions; (2) Look to other cultures and eras for guidance; (3) Apply what is learned for the common good; (4) Examine peak experiences and moral transformations.

Schwartz & Sharpe (2006): Practical wisdom: Aristotle meets PP

  • Peterson and Seligman: 24 strengths/6 virtues: ppl should develop their “signature” strengths
  • Schwartz and Sharpe disagree: (1) Virtues and strengths are interdep; (2) more of one not nec better & can produce deformations of character, aim to cultivate all strengths.
  • The other strengths need practical wisdom (“executive” master virtue) in order to be effectively deployed. [Note: real life situations often put virtues in conflict. (Honest or Kind?)]
  • Life’s aim= eudaimonia: achieved by cultivating all virtues, right proportions,context-dependent.
  • Practical wisdom (moral rules can’t resolve issues of relevance, conflict, and specificity w/o it):
  • Judgment rather than rules: concepts and categories are organized around prototypes.
  • Wisdom is learned but cannot be taught. Product of experience.
  • Timing matters when it comes to figuring out the right thing to do.
  • Threats to practical wisdom: Modern social trends are making wisdom more difficult to cultivate. Increasing market pressure. Pressure to make a profit threatens skill and will. Increasing bureaucratization: forced to follow prescribed plans. Threats are self-perpetuating.

Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen (1993): Cultivating talent throughout life

  • John Dewey: quality of an experience has two aspects: immediate agreeableness/disagreeableness, and influence upon later experiences. Education should connect momentary and future concerns.
  • Traditionalists want emphasis on discipline work; Progressives state students need to enjoy.
  • Short-term involvement: Students not overwhelmed by talent-related work. They’re “into” it.
  • Long-term, goal-directed involvement: Aware of new and challenging, future implications
  • Complex consciousness involves both. It is enjoyable, yet related to future concerns
  • Study: ESM measures were taken 2 years, measured momentary involvement, long-term goals, and complex experience (high involvement and high importance to long-term goals)
  • Both groups showed relationship btwn positive experience & talent development. Committed students stronger. They = greater positive affect, greater potency, and stronger intrinsic motivation while engaging in talent-related activities, regardless of talent type.
  • Students who were most committed to developing their talents showed this complex state of consciousness more often. Relating it to a flow state, high skills provide a platform for enjoyable and effortless involvement with new information, but there needs to be a perception of a challenge for growth in order for flow to occur (high skills/high challenge). Thus, more committed students are likely to experience more moments of high skills/high challenge. The authors conceive talent development as a dialectical “path with a heart”, or the feeling of approaching a destination while enjoying the journey as an end in itself.

Hidi (1990): Interest and its contribution as a mental resource for learning

  • Interest-based activities = motivating, involve attention, increased knowledge, and value; have profound effect on cognitive performance. Interest in a task = more attention, persist for longer periods of time, and acquire more and qualitatively different knowledge than individuals without such interest.
  • Interest can be disruptive. Interesting anecdotes can interfere with recall of important information.
  • Wade and Adams (in press) = structural importance & text-based interest affect college students’ recall. high imp’t/high interest (main ideas), high imp’t /low interest (supporting details), low imp’t /high interest (seductive details), and low imp’t /low interest (personal events unrelated to main ideas). Seductive details were the best recalled and supporting details were the worst recalled.
  • Selective Attention Model (Anderson, et al) = Interesting info better recalled due to attention. Rivaled by spontaneous attention = interest is spontaneous, not selected.

Korn (in press): Why we make things and why it matters PART 1 and PART 2

  • “I have somehow transformed benign intent into a beautiful, functional object.” He realizes his passion for making furniture, quits carpentry job to make furniture full-time. With few resources available for learning woodworking, he made it up as he went along, with two books, some drafting equipment, and a drawing board. “I gave little thought to practicalities such as income. I simply inhabited my passion.”

Schwartz, S. (1994): Are there universal aspects in the structure and content of human values

  • Value = belief that transcends specific situations and guides behavior, ordered by importance relative to other values to form a system of value priorities. They serve the interests of some social entity, can motivate action, standards for judging action, acquired through socialization and individual learning
  • Schwartz added the distilled list of 10 values and the structure (pie with slices) for how they relate. He conducted cross-cultural survey to see how well his theory holds up; and it looks like it held up well.
  • Rating instead of ranking: rating has more statistical properties, can add items without affecting core scores, doesn’t force respondents to rank equivalent values, allows for “negative” values
  • Evaluated match between the observed and theorized content and structure of value types, using a two-dimensional spatial representation of the correlations about the 56 single values
  • Values correlated with liberals: equality, world peace, beauty; conservatives = national security

Schwartz, B, Ward, & Monterosso (2002): Maximizing versus satisficing: happiness is a matter of choice

  • Rational Choice Theory assumes ppl choose rationally (they don’t).
  • Saticficing: ppl place goods on a scale in terms of how much satisfaction they will afford the chooser. This satisfaction is weighed against a threshold of acceptability. Good enough.
  • Maximizers desire the best of all possible results (note adaptation implications)
  • Participants (1) likely to make a choice when fewer options presented (2) more satisfied with choice.
  • Iyengar & Lepper hypothesized: avoidance of potential regret. More options, more opportunity to make a non-optimal decision, which undermines positive emotions from making right choice.
  • TMI, so people disengage. Disengagement process prevents ppl from finding options attractive
  • Schwartz (2000) proposes 3 options for why too many options thwarts satisfaction and decision making: (1) Can’t gain adequate knowledge to make a good choice; (2) As options increase so do standards for acceptance; (3) As options increase ppl may feel that an inability to make a good decision is their fault.
  • Maximizers scored significantly lower on life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, and self-esteem. Experienced more regret, and less happiness, even after controlling for dispositional happiness. Showed doubt in their own abilities and negative mood after watching others outperform them on the anagram task. (Showed increase in faith in abilities and positive mood when they outperformed peers) Satisficers, little to no difference. Maximizers more sensitive to the content of social comparisons than Satisficers.

Brown & Kasser (2005): Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible?

  • Subjective well-being (SWB) and ecologically responsible behavior (ERB) are not mutually exclusive.
  • Those w/ personal intrinsic values (ie: personal growth, relationships, community involvement) report greater well-being than those focused on extrinsic values (ie: financial success, image, popularity). Related work on materialism yielded similar findings.
  • Mindfulness: awareness of ongoing internal states/behavior (associated w/ higher SWB & ERB
  • Intrinsically oriented people are happier and acted in more ecologically responsible ways than those who were extrinsically motivated. Materialism was associated with lower SWB and ERB.

Positive Psychology Articles Page 2