A Systems Approach to Crisis Preparedness and Organizational Resilience

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Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.[1] 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.[2]

Positive psychology's recent incarnation and success can be largely attributed to University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman who:

  1. made it the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association[3]
  2. co-edited an influential special issue of the journal American Psychologist on positive psychology[4] and the seminal introductory article to that issue[5]
  3. authored or co-authored dozens of works since, including Authentic Happiness (2002) [6]
  4. organized the First World Congress on Positive Psychology (Philadelphia 2009) [7]
  5. 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."[8] 

Methodologically, positive psychology scholars study what has gone right, rather than wrong.

PDF files:

Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) "Positive Psychology: An Introduction"

Time Magazine (2005) cover story in the special issue on "The Science of Happiness"

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Date Page Created: Apr 20, 2011 Last Page Update: Apr 7, 2011