221 - Positive Psychology

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221 - Positive Psychology

  1. 1. People in Organisations Positive Psychology: a prodigal son? Dr. Simon Burnett ( [email_address] ) Lent Term 2009 Organisation, Work and Technology 221/2
  2. 2. Objectives. <ul><li>Key objective : </li></ul><ul><li>Explore the introduction, history and principles of the discipline of positive psychology. </li></ul><ul><li>To understand the importance of history </li></ul><ul><li>To discuss the power and influence positive psychology has in the modern day </li></ul><ul><li>To provide analyse beyond the surface level </li></ul>
  3. 3. ‘ The Happiness Agenda’ (Burnett, 2008). Information Gathering Scientists Economists Philosophers Psychologists Politicians Authors Academics Managers Self-help gurus The media Ideological shocks Macro-politics and philosophy ( Utilitarianism ) Meso-organisational policy ( Human Relations ) Micro-practices ( Positive Psychology ) Distribution Political policies and law Corporate and educational initiatives Seminars Television, newspapers, and magazine pieces Books, tapes, videos Philosophical debate Audiences Citizens Employees Individuals
  4. 4. ‘ Stop being such a grouch…’ <ul><li>Martin Seligman – Penn State director of Positive Psychology Centre </li></ul><ul><li>APA President speech - a “watershed” moment (Snyder & Lopez, 2005:752) </li></ul><ul><li>Making lives better and lastingly happier </li></ul><ul><li>Manhattan Project for the social sciences (Seligman, 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>“ A reoriented science that emphasizes the understanding and building of the most positive qualities of an individual: optimism, courage, work ethic, future-mindedness, interpersonal skill, the capacity for pleasure and insight, and social responsibility ” </li></ul><ul><li>(Seligman, 2005:3-4) </li></ul><ul><li>Widely applicable to the layperson </li></ul><ul><li>Achievable through a rigorously scientific platform of investigation, prediction and intervention </li></ul>
  5. 5. Principles and beliefs. <ul><li>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSREpjLyvUA </li></ul><ul><li>A negative imbalance </li></ul><ul><li>A positive terminology </li></ul><ul><li>Mind over environment </li></ul><ul><li>Supremacy of the individual </li></ul><ul><li>A scientific approach </li></ul>The Psychologist , 2003: 16 (3).
  6. 6. Principles and beliefs: the cost of happiness…? (Taken from Andrew Oswald’s lecture on Happiness, given at Lancaster University). Valuations (in £) See friends once a month £57,500 p.a. See friends once a week £69,500 p.a. See friends on most days £85,000 p.a. Getting married £50,500 p.a. Losing a job -£143,000 p.a.
  7. 7. The positive infusion. <ul><li>The Happiness Formula - BBC </li></ul><ul><li>Happiness: Lessons from a new science (Layard, 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Government rhetoric </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>“ That means not just waiting for life to happen to you but actively defining your goals and creating opportunities so that things will start to work for you even during you darkest…moments” (Noel Edmonds, 2006:26). </li></ul>
  8. 8. The positive infusion (cont.): positivity lessons. <ul><li>Anthony Seldon, Wellington College, Berkshire </li></ul><ul><li>Taught by college’s religious education staff </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘Nanny State gone mad’? </li></ul><ul><li>part of a ‘ lunatic fringe’ ? </li></ul><ul><li>Beadle writing in the Guardian’s education supplement perceives that it: “appears to be the start of a movement in British education…more than 200 headteachers, journalists and dignitaries attended a conference at Wellington on the subject” (20/02/2007). </li></ul><ul><li>The Times online reports that the “most popular course at Harvard this year is positive psychology (23/04/2006). </li></ul><ul><li>The University of Pennsylvania [where Seligman is based] offers a Master of Applied Positive Psychology course. </li></ul><ul><li>School staff from Hertfordshire, South Tyneside and Manchester are, as of the 9th May, 2007, to travel there to study a programme devised by Seligman, in order to teach their pupils to become ‘more resilient’; based on the principle that “positive psychology can help people be happy regardless of circumstances” (BBC News online, 09/05/2007 ). </li></ul>
  9. 9. The historical and theoretical origins. <ul><li>“ We would hasten to emphasize that this positive psychology perspective is not a brand new one . Indeed pioneering thinkers over the past several decades have provided compelling exemplars of positive psychology in their theories and research endeavours ” </li></ul><ul><li>(From Snyder and Lopez’s Declaration </li></ul><ul><li>of Independence (2005:752). </li></ul><ul><li>Strong correlations with the Humanistic Psychology movement ( Resnick et al ( 2001:74); Mahoney (2005:745); Gable & Haidt (2005:104); Fineman (2006:273). </li></ul><ul><li>Maslow - ‘the father of humanistic psychology’ – very interested in: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Where is the psychology…that takes account of gaiety, exuberance, love, and well-being to the same extent that it deals with misery, conflict, shame, and hostility? ” </li></ul><ul><li>(Maslow, quoted in Hall & Lindzey, 1960:325). </li></ul><ul><li>Both focus on the ‘positive’, ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ and assume they are inherent to the human agent, reducing the agency afforded to the environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Both unite the psychological and physiological. </li></ul><ul><li>The notion of self-actualisation is proffered by Goldstein as the central drive in human life, and refers to the innate strive to realise one’s inherent potential (cf. Hall & Lindzey, 1960:298); a notion very reminiscent of the positivity movement, and also the assertion that individual’s happiness and well-being are the desired outcomes (cf. Seligman, 2003:127). </li></ul><ul><li>Both Maslow and Seligman have openly proclaimed that they wish to improve life – rather than merely to observe; each has a clear, practical desire to influence the lives of others for, what they consider, to be the better. </li></ul><ul><li>Seligman even accepts himself that Allport and Maslow are distinguished ancestors of his progeny (2005:7). </li></ul>
  10. 10. However...a prodigal son? “ [Positive psychology’s] manifesto could have been written by humanistic psychologists such as…Abraham Maslow, but positive psychologists aspire to be far more experimentally oriented than them ” (Martin, 2007:89).
  11. 11. ‘ A growing breach’ (Taylor, 2001:14). <ul><li>Positive psychologists about humanistic psychologists: </li></ul><ul><li>“ they have generated no research tradition… </li></ul><ul><li>… are narcissistic… </li></ul><ul><li>… and are antiscientific ” </li></ul><ul><li>(Seligman, cited in Taylor, 2001:13 ). </li></ul><ul><li>Humanistic psychologists about positive psychologists: </li></ul><ul><li>There’s a problem with operationism : a detailed concern for specifying the measurement operations implied by each empirical concept (Hall & Lindsay, 1960:327). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can the subjective be judged objectively? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is the research politically neutral? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A moral arrogance in wishing to improve people? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should it be used to generate personal profit? </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. A theoretical hybrid: the positivism of positive psychology. <ul><li>What is positivism? </li></ul><ul><li>A school of philosophical thought that typically embraces a modernist conception of reality, as often synonymous with the natural sciences (Burrell & Morgan, 1979:26), and typically advocates the abstract measurement and identification of ‘clear cause and effect relationships’ (Thompson & McHugh, 2002:14). </li></ul><ul><li>Positivist approaches to science and methods of study thereby “stress the sovereignty of the empirical” (Hughes, 1990:35) and hold that statements made upon the basis of neutral observation “are directly verifiable as true or false simply by looking at the ‘facts’ of the world” ( ibid , p36). </li></ul><ul><li>A very, very popular approach to science and research with contemporary governments and organisations…but not the only way to view the world. </li></ul>How else can we (or how did humanist psychologists) view the world? “ The only way to measure precisely the similarity of two things is for the person who is doing the measuring to compare them side by side – that is, to experience them side by side. And outside of science fiction, no one can actually have another person’s experience ” (Gilbert, 2006:39).
  13. 13. A theoretical hybrid (cont). <ul><li>It was alluded to by Maslow that every age but ours had its conceptual ideal : </li></ul><ul><li>“ All of these have been given up by our culture; the saint, </li></ul><ul><li>the hero, the gentleman, the knight, the mystic” (1998:17). </li></ul><ul><li>He proffered though that ‘we’ may soon adopt the ‘self-fulfilling human being’ – a principle aspect of positive and humanistic psychology – to fill this void . </li></ul><ul><li>The fact that positive psychology is an amalgam of humanistic interests and antithetical positivist techniques of analysis and understanding enables it to relate, at least on some level, to a wider array of groups and individuals, increasing its potentially sympathetic audience. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acceptance of a hybridised perspective, after a cultural dearth of those more holistic is though not too unusual; Brooks argues that voluminous peculiar juxtapositions (2000:9) have emerged as a “cultural consequence of the information age” ( ibid , p11). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>He declares that the grand achievement of the 1990s was to: “create a way of living that lets you be an affluent success and …a free spirited rebel” ( ibid , p42); a similar mantra to that of positive psychology. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. (Some) references. <ul><li>Brooks, D. (2000), Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There , New York: Simon & Schuster. </li></ul><ul><li>Edmonds, N. (2006), ‘How to be Positively Happy’, an article in the Daily Mail , Monday, July 24th, pp26-28. </li></ul><ul><li>Layard, R. (2005), Happiness: Lessons From a New Science , Penguin Books: London. </li></ul><ul><li>Martin, M.W. (2007), ‘Happiness and Virtue in Positive Psychology’ in Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour , 37 (1): pp89-103. </li></ul><ul><li>Maslow, A.H. (1998), Maslow on Management , New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Seager, A. (7 th March, 2005), ‘Life, Labour and the Pursuit of Happiness’ in The Guardian Online , available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2005/mar/07/ politics.backbencher (accessed on 12/11/2006). </li></ul><ul><li>Seldon, A. (April 19 th 2006), ‘Lessons in life: Why I’m teaching happiness’ in The Independent Online , available at: http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article/358 571.ece (accessed on 13/11/2007). </li></ul><ul><li>Seligman, M.E.P. (1999), ‘The President’s Address (Annual Report)’ in American Psychologist , 54 (3): pp126-7. </li></ul><ul><li>Seligman, M.E.P. (2003), ‘Positive Psychology: Fundamental Assumptions’ in The Psychologist , 16 (3): pp126-7. </li></ul><ul><li>Seligman, M.E.P. (2005), ‘Positive Psychology, Positive Prevention, and Positive Therapy’ in Snyder, C.R. and Lopez, S.J. (eds.) Handbook of Positive Psychology , Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul>
  15. 15. (Some more) references. <ul><li>Seligman, M.E.P., Parks, A.C. & Steen, T. (2004), ‘A Balanced Psychology and a Full Life’ in The Royal Society , 359 : pp1379-81. </li></ul><ul><li>Snyder, C.R. and Lopez, S.J. (2005), ‘The Future of Positive Psychology: A Declaration of Independence’ in Snyder, C.R. and Lopez, S.J. (eds.), (2005), Handbook of Positive Psychology , Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Taylor, E. (2001). ‘Positive Psychology and Humanistic Psychology: A Reply to Seligman’ in Journal of Humanistic Psychology , 41 : pp13-29. </li></ul><ul><li>Turner, N., Baling, J. & Zacharatos, A. (2005), ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ in Snyder, C.R. and Lopez, S.J. (eds.) Handbook of Positive Psychology , Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Veenhoven, R. (2003a), ‘Hedonism and Happiness’, Journal of Happiness Studies , 4(4): pp437-457. </li></ul><ul><li>Veenhoven, R. (2003b), ‘Happiness’ in The Psychologist , 16 , 3 pp128-9. </li></ul>

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