Parks, Acacia C. Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Seligman, Martin E. P. Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Last reviewed:March 2019
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- Key theoretical findings in positive psychology
- Character strengths
- Positive emotion
- Close relationships
- Applied positive psychology
- Increasing happiness
- Clinical practice
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A scientific discipline examining human happiness and the psychological bases by which humans flourish as individuals and in communities. Positive psychology as a “movement" began in 1998 when Martin Seligman proposed, during his term as president of the American Psychological Association, that psychology be just as concerned with what is right with people as it is with what is wrong. Approximately 20–30% of people in the United States suffer from a mental disorder at one time or another, and that slice of the population has received much attention in the psychology literature for many decades. Positive psychology (Fig. 1) sprang from a desire to rebalance psychology as a field so that, in addition to understanding the etiology and optimal treatment strategies for mental disorders, it would be possible to understand and better the lives of the other 70–80% of people who are not severely distressed. Since its inception, the aim of positive psychology has been twofold: (1) to understand what it means to flourish, and what leads people, groups, and institutions to flourish; and (2) to design, test, and disseminate ways in which people, groups, and institutions can flourish more. See also: Affective disorders; Mental disorders; Psychoanalysis; Psychology; Psychotherapy; Stress (psychology)
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