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Does Positive Psychology Have Value In The Real World? Dr John Parkinson School of Psychology Bangor University.

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Presentation on theme: "Does Positive Psychology Have Value In The Real World? Dr John Parkinson School of Psychology Bangor University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Does Positive Psychology Have Value In The Real World? Dr John Parkinson School of Psychology Bangor University

2 Tonight’s Aims What is Positive Psychology? What is Happiness? What are the Effects of Positivity? Is Happiness Achievable?

3 What is Positive Psychology?

4 “Positive mental health (wellbeing) is more than the absence of clinically defined mental disorder. The WHO definition of mental health as a ‘state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, copes with the normal stresses of life, works productively and fruitfully, and makes a contribution to his or her community’ (WHO, 2001, page 1),” Positive Psychology and Wellbeing

5 1. Emphasis on positive (not negative) 2. The pursuit of happiness 3. A population approach 4. Humanistic approach – we are resourceful 5. Prevent and prosper Positive Psychology

6 What is Happiness?

7 Perspectives on Happiness US Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness Aristippus (4 th C BC): The goal of life is to maximise the totality of one’s ‘pleasures’ Bentham (and other Utilitarians): The best action (for a government or an individual) which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers

8 Not Everyone Sees A Happy World Freud: “One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be happy is not included in the plan of Creation” Larkin: Man hands on misery to man It deepens like a coastal shelf Get out as early as you can And don’t have kids yourself.

9 Two Types of ‘Happiness’ pleasure, enjoyment, emotion, fun AFFECT

10 Happiness the Second gratification, contentment, meaning, reflection COGNITION

11 fulfilment and meaning momentary rewards Time Happiness is (1) how you feel and (2) how you interpret that in the greater context of your life

12 Is happiness inherited or learnt? Lykken (1996) Genes ~50% Learning, life experiences, situational factors ~50% Set-point of happiness (like weight)? Attitude, control, hardiness, experience Trait Positivity

13 What are the psychological and physical effects of positive mood/ happiness?

14 Cohen et al., 1991 Stress -> Illness

15 Trait Positive Emotional Style (Vigor and well- being) Participants quarantined and exposed – tracked for 5 days Controlled for stress levels, previous antibody levels etc. Cohen et al., 2006 Resilience -> Health

16 What happens when we are happy? Intuitively – relaxed, sociable, generous... Also appears to make us more open- minded, optimistic and creative Compare effects of positive and negative emotions: E.g. Fear - focuses thought-action repertoires - context of win-lose thinking... - self-protective and inward- looking -ve emotions have a clear adaptive focus and drive Effects of Emotion

17 Broaden and Build theory (Isen, 2000, Fredrickson, 2002) ‘Expansive’ thought-action repertoires Creates a context of win-win interactions... Engenders outward looking attitudes, optimism and creativity Adaptive value is in affiliation, problem- solving (coping), goal-planning and growth Effects of Happiness

18 (Isen 1970, Isen and Levin 1972) Participants discovered coins in payphone change box (positive mood induction) Shortly afterwards, participants met a stooge who had dropped papers or were struggling to carry books Coin-finders compared to controls were significantly more likely to help out Positive emotion engenders altruism (Estrada et al., 1997) Doctors given treats (e.g. chocolate) just prior to being asked to make diagnosis (they were not allowed to eat the treats) They exhibited better decision-making and diagnosis skills Positive emotion engenders superior reasoning Happiness, Altruism, Reasoning

19 (Fredrickson 2000) - Positive mood induction (watching a funny film) - Increases problem solving skills and increases ability to think of new ideas Positive emotion increases creativity Happiness and Creativity

20 (Frijda, 1994) Joy promotes playfulness Play has an adaptive function in promoting social interaction and attachment as well as building resources Positive emotion increases social interaction and attachment Happiness & Attachment

21 ‘We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them.’ Epictetus Interpretation- of the past (memory bias) - of the present (mood) - of the future (optimism and hope) Attributional (or Explanatory) Style

22 Distorted Thinking

23 Mark and Smith, 2011 Depression or Job Satisfaction in University Employees

24 Proudfoot et al., 2009 Attributional Training and Job Satisfaction

25 Positive Attributional Style & Optimism - Is adaptive, motivating, engenders self- confidence - Is learnt and can be changed 1. Better academic achievement (e.g. college grades) 2. Better sport performance (both individual and team sports) 3. Happier family life (positive interactions and long-term marital satisfaction) 4. Better coping strategies to loss and life events (re-appraise loss in positive terms, distraction not denial) (Gillham 2000; Seligman, 1988; 1998; Fincham, 2000; Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000) Summary

26 What would a positive psychology intervention look like?

27 Positive Psychology Interventions Positive memory recall - 3 good things Gratitude letters Using inner strengths Confidence statements Future goal setting - best possible self Optimistic thinking - attributional training Communication and socialising Positive Psychology Psychotherapy

28 Promoting Positive Thought Routines 1. Selection of ‘pos psy’ or ‘cognitive’ exercise (8 weeks) Optimistic thinking (best possible self) Appreciation (gratitude) Control (Compile a list of activities completed) 2. Amount of effort engaged

29 Positive Change Requies Effort and a Motivation to Change Lyubomirsky 2011

30 How to Deliver an Intervention Online vs In-person Peer testimonial Best possible self (4 weeks: social, health, academic, career)

31 Best Possible Self

32 Considering a Positive Future Gains achieved through both: In person Online Peer testimonial also increased gains Hope Future goal achievement The possibility of change Personal choice and autonomy


34 Depression Status Self-selection Administration format (individual, group, self) Administration duration (legacy, effort) Age ‘Shotgun’ approach Culture Effect Size Moderators

35 Does Positive Psychology have Value in the Real World? - As a field of study, it explores the positive potential of humanity (research-led, evidence-based) - As a practical guide, it provides tools to improve immediate affect and longer term attitudes

36 Thank you

37 Philosophical Digression The point of happiness? - A positive affective tone - Broaden and Build - Social networks - Problem solving - Creativity - Altruism The point of contentment? - Satisfaction of Motives - Goal fulfilment - Sense of identity

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