Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
The mission of the Positive Psychology Center (PPC) at the University of Pennsylvania is to promote research, training, education, and the dissemination of Positive Psychology. The PPC is internationally recognized for empirical studies in Positive Psychology and resilience. The Center’s scholars are world-renowned experts in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, and grit. The Center established the world’s first Master of Applied Positive Psychology program (MAPP). We offer state-of-the-art training programs in Positive Psychology and resilience for educational institutions, the U.S. Army, and other organizations around the world.
Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman is the Director of the Center and a Professor of Psychology. He is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also an expert on interventions that prevent depression, and build strengths and well-being. He has written more than 250 scholarly publications and 20 books.
Other faculty at the Center include Dr. Karen Reivich, Dr. Angela Duckworth, Dr. Paul Rozin, Dr. James Pawelski (MAPP Director), and Dr. Judith Saltzberg (MAPP instructor and resilience program trainer). Mr. Peter Schulman is the Executive Director of the Center. Staff at the Center also includes 9 post-doctoral fellows, 6 graduate students, 13 project managers, and the MAPP program director.
Dr. Karen Reivich is an instructor in the MAPP program and is a leading expert in the fields of resilience, depression prevention and Positive Psychology. She is the primary curriculum developer for the Center’s resilience and Positive Psychology programs for the U.S. Army and for educators, as well as the lead instructor for these programs. She has co-authored two books on resilience and optimism, and has published extensively in peer reviewed journals and edited books.
Dr. Angela Duckworth’s research focuses on self-control (the ability to regulate thoughts and emotions) and grit (perseverance and sustained interest toward goals) and how these characteristics influence academic and professional achievement. She has written more than 40 scholarly publications and manuscripts.
At the Positive Psychology Center, we:
- Conduct empirical research in Positive Psychology, resilience, grit, Positive Neuroscience, Positive Health, and Prospective Psychology. For more details on this research, click here. Since the 1970s, research at the Center has been funded by the generous support of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the U.S. Department of Education, the John Templeton Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Gates Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Annenberg Foundation, the Mayerson Foundation, the Hovey Foundation, among others.
- Develop and empirically validate curricula and train-the-trainer programs designed to enhance resilience, well-being and performance.
- Deliver resilience programs and Positive Psychology programs using the train-the-trainer model. These programs have shown efficacy in the prevention of depression and anxiety, and to increase well-being and resilience. We currently conduct large-scale resilience programs for educational institutions around the world, and for the U.S. Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program.
- Disseminate research findings through academic publications in peer-reviewed journals, which are listed throughout this website.
- Offer the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program (MAPP), in which students learn to apply the principles of Positive Psychology to professional domains, or prepare for further study in a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. program.
- Host conferences and meetings at which scholars share and discuss the latest empirical findings in Positive Psychology.
- Collaborate with numerous scholars and students around the world on research studies, grant-writing, teaching, and conferences. A few of the many scholars we have worked with over the years to build the field of Positive Psychology and resilience include Dr. Roy Baumeister, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dr. Ed Diener, Dr. Robert Emmons, Dr. Raymond Fowler, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Dr. Shelly Gable, Dr. Jane Gillham, Dr. Jonathan Haidt, Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dr. Laura Kubzansky, Dr. Darwin Labarthe, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Dr. Robert Nozick, Dr. Christopher Peterson, Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Dr. George Vaillant, among many others.
Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Understanding positive emotions entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits involves the study of strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Understanding positive institutions entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.
Some of the goals of Positive Psychology are to build a science that supports:
- Families and schools that allow children to flourish
- Workplaces that foster satisfaction and high productivity
- Communities that encourage civic engagement
- Therapists who identify and nurture their patients' strengths
- The teaching of Positive Psychology and resilience skills
- Dissemination of Positive Psychology and resilience training in organizations & communities