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Positive Psychology Executive Summary



To understand and build the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.


During its first century, psychology justifiably focused most of its attention on human suffering. Marked progress as been made in understanding and treating numerous psychological disorders - depression, anxiety, and phobias, to name a few. While alleviating suffering, however, psychology has neglected what makes life most worth living. 

Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want more than an end to suffering. People want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. We have the opportunity to create a science and a profession that not only heals psychological damage but also builds strengths to enable people to achieve the best things in life. 


Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive experiences, 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 consists of the study of the strengths and virtues: 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
· Dissemination of Positive Psychology interventions in schools, corporations, government, hospitals, and communities.


Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., is director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of the American Psychological Association (APA). His bibliography includes about 200 articles and twenty books, including the best seller Learned Optimism.

The Positive Psychology Center has taken large strides towards its goals in a short time, thanks to the generous support of numerous organizations, including The Annenberg Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Gallup Organization, The Hovey Foundation, The Mayerson Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The John Templeton Foundation.


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