Thursday, May 10, 2012

More on Positive Psychology

I read A Primer in Positive Psychology (Oxford Positive Psychology Series) by Christopher Peterson, because I've got interested in the field. We discussed Martin Seligman here, for example.

The reason I find it so interesting is it provides some hard scientific evidence for elements of the good life that most people will have in common. This kind of work moves what we should aim for as individuals and as a society out of the category of empty abstraction and into something purposeful and real - at least a little.

The book is interesting and provides a bit more rigor and links to primary research than other books. As you would expect, it's good on methodology, research methods and taxonomy. But it fills in the gaps rather than presenting something new, at least if you have read books like Seligman's Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being or the many other books on happiness.

There were some things that did strike me - this for instance:

Gallup has learned that posing the simple question to workers: "Do you get to do what you do best every day?" provides powerful information... No more than 20% of workers in the United States believe that their jobs allow them on a regular basis to do and be their best. p195
And this outline of Martin Gardner's classification of very high accomplishment is interesting.

Gardner proposed that there are four ways to be extraordinary; by being a master of some domain of accomplishment (eg Mozart and musical composition); by being a maker of an entirely new field (eg Freud and psychoanalysis); by being an introspector and exploring inner life (eg novelist James Joyce); and being an influencer (eg Gandhi and politics). Again we see the theme of pluraility of excellence. p215

1 comment:

  1. Mapper - absolutely. I share the same reasons for your interest in positive psychology. The research conducted focuses on identifying the determinants to higher subjective well being as well as in many cases researching the effects of high subjective well being (on family, career, etc.).

    And personally I think these lessons are messages that should be more broadly communicated to young people today who are bombarded with alternative lessons: that happiness comes from being rich, famous, at the top of the corporate ladder, etc.

    So I write about positive psychology and how the lessons it is producing can help to "quell" the so-called Quarter Life Crisis, in as much as it provides guideposts for life. (and not a step-by-step program that is common in self-help literature)

    Anyway, I would love to hear you comments and thoughts on the topic as well and I write over at