Rays of Sunshine by Gnumarcoo - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Annotated Links

The Brain Basis of Unrealistic Optimism Discovering that an initial estimate was unduly pessimistic was associated with increased activity across the frontal lobes which being unduly optimistic was associated with reduced activity in these areas according to research by Tali Sharot and colleagues published in Nature Neuroscience (2011) and summarized here in BPS Research Digest, December 5, 2011.

Can You Instill Mental Toughness? The U.S. military is implementing a resilience-building program designed by Martin Seligman and colleagues to help train personnel to think more optimistically through attributional retraining and to develop the capacities for gratitude and generosity using principles of positive psychology. Read about this work in this article from Time magazine online, April 19, 2012.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy Writer Maria Konnikova describes the link between expectations and outcomes for cynics and optimists, while incorporating research on locus of control, learned helplessness, depressive realism, perceived control, optimism, pessimism, self-fulfilling prophesies and more. From The New Yorker, June 18, 2014.

The Happy Secret to Better Work From the website: We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity. (Runs 12 minutes, 21 seconds)

Heal Thyself: Think Positive Realism may be bad for your health: believing things will turn out fine or feeling safe and secure may help the body maintain and repair itself according to research by David Creswell and colleagues reviewed in this summary and video (3 minutes, 5 seconds) from New Scientist, August 29, 2011.

Helen Keller on Optimism Maria Popova for Brain Pickings shares her musings on Helen Keller's moving treatise on optimism from 1903. Posted June 6, 2013.

Hourly Employees Happier Than Salaried People paid by the hour exhibit a stronger relationship between income and happiness, according to a study published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSPB), summarized in this article from Medical News Today, December 14, 2009.

If at First You Don't Succeed...You're in Excellent Company Writer Melinda Beck, in this Wall Street Journal article with accompanying slide show, tells the story of famous people who overcame setbacks on the road to success, including J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, and others.

Laugh Often to Live Well According to Brain Blogger: Humor and mirth offer a multitude of preventive and healing effects and a new study is offering more evidence that laughter has quantifiable benefits for the brain. Posted May 10, 2014.

Laughter is a Physical, Not a Mental Thing From the summary: Laughter is regularly promoted as a source of health and well being, but it has been hard to pin down exactly why laughing until it hurts feels so good. The answer, reports Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, is not the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humor, but the physical act of laughing. Read all about it here in 3 Quarks Daily, September 14, 2011.

Laughter Has Positive Impact on Vascular Function Watching a funny movie or sitcom that produces laughter has a positive effect on vascular function and is opposite to that observed after watching a movie that causes mental stress according to research by Michael Miller and colleagues presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and summarized here in Science Daily, August 28, 2011.

Ode to Joy and Serenity and Curiosity and . . . Wray Herbert summarizes the work of Barbara Fredrickson on the Broaden and Build theory of positive emotions in his blog We're Only Human December 16, 2008. He takes up the question of What are positive emotions for? by summarizing Fredrickson's research on resilience and positive emotions.

Optimists Better at Regulating Stress It's no surprise that those who tend to see a rose's blooms before its thorns are also better at handling stress. But science has failed to reliably associate optimism with individuals' biological stress response -- until now according to Science Daily, July 23, 2013, summarizing research by Joelle Jobin and Carsten Wrosch published in Health Psychology.

Other People Matter: Three International Positive Psychology Association Tributes to Chris Peterson Nansook Park, Barbara Fredrickson, and Martin Seligman each gave moving tributes to the late Christopher Peterson at the Third World Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association. Their talks are summarized here in Positive Psychology News Daily, July 26, 2013.

Over 40 Playful Yet Practical Ways to Cultivate Creativity Margarita Tartakovsky presents these ways to boost creativity to make you happier and more productive. From Psych Central.

Overview by David G. Myers, including a description of the movement's three pillars: subjective well-being, positive character, and positive groups, communities, and cultures; suggestions for a happier life; links to articles; and much more.

People Are Overly Optimistic About the Benefits of Optimism This work doesn’t suggest that optimism is ineffective as a broad strategy for approaching life, or at helping us fulfill objectives at a broad scale. But it does suggest that we put more on the shoulders of optimism that it can bear according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and summarized here for the British Psychological Society Research Digest, April 29, 2015.

Positive Psychology Center The Positive Psychology Center has extensive resources including summary of current research, sample syllabi, high school curriculum, online research participation, and extensive bibliography.

Positive Psychology Daily News From the website: Positive Psychology News Daily provides the latest news about happiness, the “science of happiness,” and Positive Psychology. Our goal is to be your fun, collaborative place for a research-based daily boost of happiness. (also available in Chinese)

Positive Psychology Teaching Tools The 19 page resource, by Grant J. Rich, describes collections of readings, edited volumes, and handbooks that might supplement positive psychology textbooks as well as more specialized texts that could supplement seminars on specific positive psychology topics. Such topics include work, religion, creativity, personality and character strength, health, and development. Opens in PDF format.

The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking Writer Adam Alter describes the paradoxical finding that positive fantasies may actually lessen our chance of succeeding — if they prevent us from taking concrete steps to realize our goals. From The New Yorker, February 19, 2014.

Psychologists Discover A Gene's Link to Optimism, Self-Esteem According to research by Shelley E. Taylor and colleagues, and summarized here, researchers have identified a gene linked to optimism, self-esteem, and mastery. From Science Daily, September 14, 2011.

PY1504 This is the site for Tal D. Ben-Shahar's Positive Psychology class at Harvard University from the Spring 2005-2006. Includes syllabus, readings (PDF, web, references, etc.), and videotapes of his lectures.

Sample Syllabus from Neil Lutskty's positive psychology course at Carleton College.

What Holocaust Survivors Can Teach Us About Gratitude Neuroscientists have gained new insights into how gratitude operates in the brain. Glenn Fox and his colleagues had participants read testimonies of Holocaust survivors while their brains were being scanned. They discovered that areas activated during moments of gratitude include processing reward, fairness, moral cognition, and self-reference. Published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, and summarized here for PsyBlo, October 21, 2015.

Assignments, Exercises, and Activities

10 Easy Activities Science Has Proven Will Make You Happier Grounded in research, these activities including practicing gratitude, controlling counter-factual thinking and others may be used to spark discussion or to introduce topics in stress, resilience, cognition, emotion, and positive psychology.

Five -Ful Envelopes In this activity, by Barbara Frederickson, participants explore the positive emotions of hopeful, joyful, peaceful, playful, and thankful, and brainstorm ways of increasing the frequency and intensity of these positive emotions in their lives. From the January 2010 issue of the Thiagi Gameletter (Seriously fun activities for trainers, facilitators, performance consultants, and managers, see their website here).

How Mindfulness Works C. Nathan DeWall writing for the APS Observer on Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science describes two exercises which illustrate how mindfulness works based on the research of J. David Creswell and Emily Lindsay (2014). Posted January 2015.

Positive Psychology: 7-day unit plan for high school psychology Amy C. Fineburg, Homewood High School, Birmingham, Alabama, created this document for Teaching of Psychology in the Secondary Schools. Includes critical thinking activities (daily mood, satisfaction with life scale, creating flow experiences, measuring optimism, the hope scale and much more) interspersed with lesson plans for the high school psychology course. If you are a member of APA, you can login to their website and download the complete PDF here if not, try here.

Values in Action From the website: In the pages of this site you will learn about positive psychology and the classification system and measurement tools of character strengths that serve as the backbone of this developing scientific discipline.

Values in Action Survey Register to take and receive feedback for the 240-item self-report VIA Inventory of Strengths, or just click to see the VIA Classification of six virtues and 24 character strengths. Registration is free.

Current Researchers and Research Team Pages

Electronic Texts

Examples and Illustrations

Lectures and Lecture Notes

Positive Psychology Yale University now has many courses avaible in video, audio, and written form as part of their Open Yale program. Includes reading assignments and class notes. Listen to this lecture on happiness from Paul Bloom's Introduction to Psychology course from the Spring of 2007. "Professor Bloom ends with a review of one of the most interesting research topics in "positive psychology," happiness. What makes us happy? How does happiness vary across person and culture? What is happiness for? Students will hear how the most recent research in psychology attempts to answer these questions and learn how people are surprisingly bad at predicting what will make them happiest."

Slide Presentations

Tests, Measures, and Scales

Attributional Styles Test and Locus of Control Discovery Health presents this online version of a 10-item locus of control scale with scoring and feedback. However, the real fun begins when you are asked to take the 47-item long version including scales measuring optimistic and pessimistic explanatory style, the three dimensions of internal-external, stable-unstable, global-specific, career and academic locus of control, belief in luck, health locus of control and more. All scales are scored automatically and feedback is provided.

Flourishing Scale The Flourishing Scale by Diener, et al. (2009), is a brief 8-item summary measure of the respondent's self-perceived success in important areas such as relationships, self-esteem, purpose, and optimism. The scale provides a single psychological well-being score. The scale is available for downloading in English, Chinese, Hungarian, and Turkish.

Optimism-Pessimism: The LOT-R As Charles S. Carver explains, The Life Orientation Test (LOT) was developed to assess individual differences in generalized optimism versus pessimism. From Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): A re-evaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1063-1078. Click here for the Spanish and French versions.

Positive Psychology Questionnaires The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania maintains an extensive website on Positive Psychology. On their questionnaires page find background information and links to over 15 surveys used in positive psychology research including the Gratitude Questionnaire, Adult Hope Scale, Gratitude Scale, and more.

Prosocial Personality Battery 56 and 30 item from Penner, L. A., Fritzsche, B. A., Craiger, J. P., & Freifeld, T. S. (1995). Measuring the prosocial personality. In J. N. Butcher, & C. D. Spielberger (Eds.) Advances in personality assessment, (Vol. 12). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Includes subscales measuring Social Responsibility (SR), Empathic Concern (EC), Perspective Taking (PT), Personal Distress (PD), Other-Oriented Moral Reasoning (O), Mutual Concerns moral reasoning (M), Self-reported altruism (SRA), Other-oriented empathy (sum of scores on SR, EC, PT, O, M) and Helpfulness (sum of PD (reversed) and SRA).

Values in Action Survey Register to take and receive feedback for the 240-item self-report VIA Inventory of Strengths, or just click to see the VIA Classification of six virtues and 24 character strengths. Registration is free.

Multimedia Resources

Buddha’s Brain: The Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom Shrink Rap Radio: A Psychology talk and Interview Show (Podcast; Show #249, Oct 16, 2010). In this episode, Dr. Dave talks with neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, who works at the intersection on the brain, positive psychology and meditation. Hanson believes that when the brain changes the mind changes; when the mind changes the brain changes; and you can use your mind skillfully to change your brain and your mind for the better (1 hour, 12 minutes, 47 seconds).

Clinical Applications of Positive Psychology Shrink Rap Radio: A Psychology talk and Interview Show (Pocast; Show #65 December 07, 2006) Judy Saltzberg Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who practices from a cognitive-behavioral perspective. A Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, she supervises therapists in training and has taught seminars in the University of Pennsylvania Resiliency program. She is interested in the application of positive psychology to clinical interventions.

Discovering Positive Psychology Shrink Rap Radio: A Psychology talk and Interview Show (Podcast; Show #61 November 20, 2006). For the past five years or so, Positive Psychology has been the next big thing in psychology. Dr. James Pawelski is currently the director of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, which supports the University’s newest masters program, the Master of Applied Positive Psychology. Before going to Philadelphia to teach at Penn, Dr. Pawelski served as an assistant professor of human and organizational development and religious studies at Vanderbilt University. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Penn State University and B.S. in mathematics. Dr. Pawelski’s main interests lie in the application of Positive Psychology in academic, professional and personal settings.

Extraordinary People: The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes This is a documentary about a boy (Ben Underwood) who has taught himself to use echo location to navigate around the world. Ben Underwood is blind, but has managed to do some truly extraordinary feats. From a BBC special in 5 parts. If you click on more info you'll get the URLs for all 5 parts. While not strictly related to the teaching of personality psychology, this is an amazing and uplifting story (each part runs about 10-12 minutes and can stand alone).

If at First You Don't Succeed...You're in Excellent Company Writer Melinda Beck, in this Wall Street Journal article with accompanying slide show, tells the story of famous people who overcame setbacks on the road to success, including J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, and others.

Fun: The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun Get focused, be creative, use your wisdom, take action and in the end have more fun in your life. This multi-media presentation is also available in a French and Spanish version.

Heal Thyself: Think Positive Realism may be bad for your health: believing things will turn out fine or feeling safe and secure may help the body maintain and repair itself according to research by David Creswell and colleagues reviewed in this summary and video (3 minutes, 5 seconds) from New Scientist, August 29, 2011.

The Laugh Song A charming way of introducing the topic of laughter...or just to add a touch of laughter to a lecture.

The Psychology of Doing Good. Shrink Rap Radio: A Psychology talk and Interview Show (Podcast). In this Podcast (show #105) Dr. Dave, a.k.a. David Van Nuys, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University, interviews Stephen Post lead author of the 2007 book Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves The Link Between Doing Good and Living A Longer, Healthier, Happier Life. Dr. Post has written seven scholarly books on unselfish love and giving, and is the editor of eight other books. He is Professor of Bioethics & Family Medicine in the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. He is also President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, Altruism, Compassion, and Service, which was founded in 2001 with a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. He has published over 140 articles in peer-reviewed journals representing the sciences, religion, and humanities. Dr. Post received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Martin Seligman TED talk: Why is Psychology Good? Martin Seligman talks about psychology -- as a field of study and as it works one-on-one with each patient and each practitioner. As it moves beyond a focus on disease, what can modern psychology help us to become? Provides a good overview of positive psychology including happiness, positive emotion, the good life, flow, meaning, and human strengths. From the February 2004 conference themed The Pursuit of Happiness. (Duration: 23 minutes 41 seconds).

This Emotional Life From the website: The Emmy Award-winning team of Vulcan Productions and the producers of NOVA have created a three-part series that explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals. Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, talks with experts about the latest science on what makes us tick and how we can find support for the emotional issues we all face. Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research along with revealing comments from celebrities like Chevy Chase, Larry David, Alanis Morissette, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Richard Gere. The first episode, Family, Friends & Lovers, looks at the importance of relationships and why they are central to our emotional well-being (includes an excellent overview of Attachment theory). In the second episode, Facing Our Fears, we look at emotions that are commonly regarded as obstacles to happiness — such as anger, fear, anxiety, and despair (includes a discussion of Anger, Depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Stress and Anxiety). The last episode, Rethinking Happiness, explores happiness. It is so critical to our well-being, and, yet, it remains such an elusive goal for many of us (includes Creativity and Flow, Forgiveness, Happiness, Humor, Meditation, Resilience). See more about the people and stories featured on the series, view selected video clips, learn more about the topics mentioned, find information about resources and support organizations, and purchase a DVD.

What Happens When We Laugh? According to neuroscientist Sophie Scott in this TED talk, It has to do with breathing…as well as emotions, and the voice. Studying the mechanisms of laughter, she discovered it’s a social, universal expression not just in humans but even chimpanzees and rats. Brain scans revealed the areas of the brain active during laughter (interestingly, similar to yawning, another socially contagious expression). Her lab also examined polite, posed laughter vs. uncontrollable mirth, and revealed how we tell the difference. (runs 13 minutes and 27 seconds).

Positive Psychology: What is Positive Psychology? An Animation According to Nick Standlea, of Positive Psychology Daily News: If you’ve ever struggled to explain positive psychology to a friend or colleague, you are ready to appreciate this short animation by Nick Standlea, a former research associate for Mike Csikszentmihalyi at the Quality of Life Research Center. It’s food for the eyes and ears. October 31, 2012. Runs 5 minutes.

Page last modified by October 29, 2015, at 05:31 PM