Definitions, Assumptions & Goals of Positive Psychology


Definition of Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi define positive psychology as “the scientific study of positive human functioning and flourishing on multiple levels that include the biological, personal, relational, institutional, cultural, and global dimensions of life.

Sheldon and King (2001) define positive psychology as “nothing more than the scientific study of ordinary human strengths and virtues”

Gable and Haidt (2005) defined positive psychology is “the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups and institutions.”

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008)

According to American Psychological Association (APA), Positive Psychology is a field of psychological theory and research that focuses on the psychological states (e.g., contentment, joy), individual traits or character strengths (e.g., intimacy, integrity, altruism, wisdom), and social institutions that enhance subjective well-being and make life most worth living.

Seligman’s (2003) three pillars of positive psychology. 

(1) Positive subjective experiences (such as joy, happiness, contentment, optimism, and hope);

(2) Positive individual characteristics (such as personal strengths and human virtues that promote mental health);

(3) Positive social institutions and communities that contribute to individual health and happiness.

Assumptions of Positive Psychology

A major assumption of positive psychology is that the field of psychology has become unbalanced. (Simonton & Baumeister, 2005).

Human goodness and excellence are as authentic as disorders and distress and therefore deserve equal attention from mental health practitioners. Its time to challenge the disease model (Maddux,2002)

Human beings have the potential for good and that we are motivated to pursue a good life (Linley & Joseph,2006)

Goals of Positive Psychology

According to Martin Seligman’s goal of  positive psychology was

To refocusing the entire field of psychology.

To find elements of positive psychology represented in so many different areas of psychology, from physiological to clinical psychology.

To restore balance within the discipline of Psychology which was too much focused on negative aspects.

To catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.

To improve understanding of positive human behaviors to balance the negative focus of much mainstream research & theory (Sheldon & King, 2001).

To develop an empirically-based conceptual understanding and language for describing healthy human functioning that parallels our classification and understanding of mental illness (Keyes, 2003)

To boost present well being.

To prevent future problems.

To make life worthwhile.

References of Positive Psychology

Baumgardner, S. R., & Crothers, M. K. (2009). Positive Psychology: Pearson Education.


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