Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It arises, in part, as a reaction to mainstream psychology, which has tradtionally focused almost exclusively on treatment of illness and abnormalities. The term originates with Abraham Maslow, who wrote,
The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side. It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.
Positive psychology's recent incarnation and success can be largely attributed to University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman who:
- made it the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association
- co-edited an influential special issue of the journal American Psychologist on positive psychology and the seminal introductory article to that issue
- authored or co-authored dozens of works since, including Authentic Happiness (2002) 
- organized the First World Congress on Positive Psychology (Philadelphia 2009) 
- founded the Positive Psychology Center at U Penn
Seligman echoed Maslow’s comments in promoting "a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities."
Methodologically, positive psychology scholars study what has gone right, rather than wrong.
Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) "Positive Psychology: An Introduction"
Time Magazine (2005) cover story in the special issue on "The Science of Happiness"
- 1] University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center homepage
- 2] Maslow, Abraham (1954) Motivation and Psychology. The last chapter of the book is entitled "Toward a Positive Psychology"; the quote is on p. 354).
- 3] Time "The Science of Happiness", 2005 http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/images/TimeMagazine/Time-Happiness.pdf
- 4] Seligman, Martin E.P.; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, eds. (2000). "Special Issue on Positive Psychology;. American Psychologist 55 (1) Jan 2000
- 5] Seligman, Martin E.P.; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2000). "Positive Psychology: An Introduction". American Psychologist 55 (1): 5–14. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.5. PMID 11392865.
- 6] Seligman, Martin E.P. (2002) Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. xi. ISBN 0-7432-2297-0.
- 7] http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/18/idUS130343+18-Jun-2009+PRN20090618
- 8] Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) op cit.