Positive Psychology: Fundamental Assumptions

Authors: M.E.P. Seligman

Publication: The Psychologist

Year: 2003

Focus Area: Emotion, Motivation, Decision Making

Relevance: Positive psychology provides a different perspective on motivation, emotion, and ultimately decision making, and in so doing contributes to a balanced understanding of consumer behavior.

Summary: This article frames the field of positive psychology, outlining important terms and concepts and emphasizing the need for greater focus on “the parts of life that make life worth living.” (p. 127)

  • The author distinguishes between the pleasant life (pursuing positive emotions), the good life (using strengths and virtues for gratification in the main realms of life), and the meaningful life (using strengths and virtues in the service of something larger than one’s self).
  • Positive psychology hopes to refute the common idea that at the core of all positive emotion and behavior is some negative impetus, or “core.”  Instead, it posits that behavior such as morality, cooperation, and altruism are evolved in the same manner as murder, theft, and terrorism.
  • Understanding the positive elements of psychology may provide greater insights into motivation than the Freudian emphasis on guilt and repression.

Author Abstract: FOR the last half century psychology has been largely consumed with a single topic only – mental illness – and it has done fairly well with it. Psychologists can now measure with some precision such formerly fuzzy concepts as depression and alcoholism. We now know a fair amount about how these troubles develop across the lifespan, and about their genetics, their biochemistry and their psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve some of these disorders. But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable has relegated building the states that make life worth living to a distant back seat.

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