The Positive Psychology Network supported 31 pods of scholars to write book(s), to pioneer scientific discovery, or to obtain a major grant for research on Positive Psychology.
1) Jon Haidt (Virginia) and Dacher Keltner (Berkeley): Awe and Moral Elevation. The goal of the Awe pod is to advance research and scholarship on a cluster of "self-transcendent emotions" related to awe. The awe pod is now in the middle of a large study (funded by the Metanexus foundation) to study the role of awe in spiritual transformations, by following a large cohort of incoming students at U.C. Berkeley throughout their first year. The pod is continuing its work on eliciting awe in the lab (using videos and beautiful photographs) and then measuring its cognitive effects. The pod is continuing its research into the possible role of the vagus nerve in self-transcendent emotions, particularly moral elevation. In addition, the pod has begun work at the University of Virginia on the emotion of admiration, with preliminary studies showing increases in physical strength and task persistence after watching a video about an inspiring hero. The pod submitted a large grant proposal to the National Science Foundation, and was asked to "revise and resubmit" the proposal later this year.
2) Paul Rozin (Penn), Claude Fischler (Paris), Joel Kupperman (Connecticut), Daniel Kahneman (Princeton) and Alan Fiske (UCLA): Comfort and Joy. The comfort-joy pod is devoted to furthering our understanding the extent to which different life experiences contribute to pleasure, sense of accomplishment and meaning, and the quality of life. Our approach is conceptual, culturally oriented, and empirical in the sense that we are interested in describing how pleasure functions in life. Five studies on the relation of experienced to remembered pleasure have been completed. One, on remembered pleasure for music, with A. Rozin and E. Goldberg, is in press in Music Perception. Two others are submitted, one on people’s ability to anticipate changes in their hedonic functions (with K. Hanko and P. Durlach) and one on remembered pleasure for meals (with E. Rode and P. Durlach). There is also a completed study on remembered pleasure for art exhibits (with S. Taylor) and one on the relations between remembered, experienced, and anticipated pleasure (with Karlene Hanko). As well, studies are underway with C. Fischler (and P. Rozin) on the principles of moderation vs. abundance, and joy vs. comfort, as they function in the lives of French and Americans. Finally, Kupperman has authored two papers, dealing with, among other things, hedonic treadmills. The pod met once in 2004. The topic we centered on was why it is considered better to end well, as opposed to begin well, in general, and in particular, for life trajectories. We intend to explore the meaning of this, conceptually and in a cross-cultural context. In terms of Positive Psychology, this general feature of human valuation is problematic, since old age makes it unlikely that things will end better than they were in mid life.
3) Lisa Aspinwall (Utah), James Gross (Stanford), and Lisa Feldman Barrett (Boston College): Thriving During Change. The Transition to Stanford Study pod is a major prospective study of the Stanford University entering class of 2000, the first of its kind at Stanford. The pod met twice to discuss the Transition to Stanford Study, a prospective study of adjustment to freshman year that was initiated by James Gross at Stanford prior to the pod's formation. These meetings (a) led to a more substantial representation of positive functioning in our year-end outcome measures; (b) created improved incentives for participants; and (c) resulted in a supplemental assessment for those unable to complete our main end year assessments. We completed data collection. The participation rate was excellent at each of the two end-year assessment points (approximately 2/3 of the 700 or so participants who completed our surveys prior to freshman year completed each of our end-year assessments). These students will be followed through graduation.
Given that the pod's primary work consisted of the development of the assessment batteries and discussion of recruitment, design, and analysis issues as they related to the nature and timing of the assessments, the pod considers its work done, and is encouraged by the apparent success of the first two years of the study. With the measures in place and the core sample secured, the next phase of the study is simply to wait for the participants to finish their college careers.
4) Sonja Lyubomirsky (UC Riverside), Ed Diener (U. Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and Laura King (U. Missouri-Columbia): Positive Emotions Pod. This pod's paper on the benefits of happiness earned very positive reviews from Psychological Bulletin (PB) and encouragement from the editor-in-chief to revise and resubmit. The focal question of the pod's revised paper to PB ("Is Happiness a Strength: An Examination of the Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect") is, "Can happiness be the cause of the successful outcomes with which it correlates?" The pod documents three classes of evidence – cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental – to test a conceptual model arguing that the happiness-success link exists not only because success makes people happy, but because positive affect engenders success (e.g., in the domains of work, love, and health). The results of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies reveal that happiness is associated with and precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviors paralleling success. Positive affect – the hallmark of well-being – is also shown to correlate with, precede, and cause a variety of desirable resources, behaviors, and characteristics (e.g., sociability, self-confidence, helpfulness, creativity, and coping). In sum, happiness has multiple benefits for the individual and the community.
5) Ken Sheldon (Missouri): Insecurity, Priming, and Greed. This pod is conducting research to understand both the causes and the emotional consequences of materialistic behavior. This pod has conducted three experimental studies to examine the relationship of mood (positive or negative) and environmental primes (materialistic or prosocial) upon consumption behavior. The central idea is that consumption may often represent a mood-repair effort: if you're feeling blue, go shopping (especially if you've just been exposed to advertisements). This pod conducted experiments in which participants were given the opportunity to take from $1 to $5, anonymously, during the experiment. We were interested in participants' subsequent emotions. As predicted, those who took more had more guilt and negative mood, not greater happiness, as one might expect if "homo economicus" assumptions are correct. We will be conducting follow-up studies during the coming semester. This pod has completed its research.
6) Tim Kasser (Knox College): Happiness and the Holidays. This project is designed to understand the psychological factors associated with a happy, satisfying Christmas. Despite the importance of Christmas within many cultures, research has not examined the types of experiences and activities that are associated with holiday well-being. The pod completed the study on "What Makes for a Merry Christmas?" in January 2002 and submitted the paper reporting its results in May 2002. The paper was published in the December 2002 issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies. In brief, 117 individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 80, answered questions about their satisfaction, stress, and emotional state during the Christmas season, as well as questions about their experiences, use of money, and consumption behaviors. More happiness was reported when family and religious experiences were especially salient, and lower well-being occurred when spending money and receiving gifts predominated. Engaging in environmentally-conscious consumption practices also predicted a happier holiday, as did being older and male. In sum, the materialistic aspects of modern Christmas celebrations may undermine well-being, while family and spiritual activities may help people to feel more satisfied. This pod has completed its research.
7) Suzanne Segerstrom (Kentucky) and Annette Stanton (Kansas): Immunology and Health. How do positive traits and life events translate into differences in immunity and health? This pod's candidate is repetitive thought, defined as thoughts that occur frequently or for extended periods of time. Previous work showed that repetitive thought could be characterized along two dimensions: positive to negative valence and searching to solving purpose. The pod continues to investigate the relationship between repetitive thought (the thoughts that have been "on one's mind"), immune function, and health. In the past year, the pod met to examine data from a study that examined the emotional and physiological consequences of trying to change repetitive thought through writing. There was a robust trend for thoughts to become both more positive and more solving over time, a trajectory that writing could not overcome. Cross-sectional data, however, suggested between-subjects differences in repetitive thought that were relevant to adjustment. Participants who had more positive thoughts had more positive mood, less negative mood, and fewer thought intrusions, especially when thoughts were certain, that is, had a solving purpose. Furthermore, this style of thought was characteristic of participants who typically engage in high emotional processing, and those participants' repetitive thought style accounted for a large portion of their better emotional adjustment. The manuscript describing these data is in preparation. Finally, after an encouraging initial review, Dr. Segerstrom resubmitted a revised federal research grant (R01) to apply the repetitive thought theoretical framework to older adults.
8) Karen Reivich (Penn) and Shane Lopez (Nebraska): Positive Interventions and Civic Engagement. The Intervention Pod continues to work on theory-grounded intervention projects targeting optimal development in children and youth. This pod disseminates information on positive interventions to teachers, counselors, and school psychologists on a monthly basis. Both Reivich and Lopez have contributed to numerous grant-funded projects focusing on enhancing strengths. For a Department of Education grant designed to teach Positive Psychology skills to ninth graders, Reivich, Seligman and colleagues implemented a positive psychology curriculum that has been integrated into standard Language Arts classes for 9th grade students in a suburban Philadelphia school district. This project is in year 2 and has added a second cohort. Reivich, Seligman and colleagues have updated the curriculum and have developed a maintenance program to help the students translate the skills learned into maintained behaviors. The researchers have also added a one-on-one interview and additional assessments to further explore the program's effects on the students' mood, behavior, civic engagement and peer/family relationships. In addition, Reivich, in collaboration with Seligman and others is working with Vocational Rehabilitation counselors to teach them optimism and resilience skills. Reivich and Seligman implemented a 2 1/2 day optimism and resilience program with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and are in the process of certifying 11 trainers of Vocational Rehabilitation counselors to become facilitators of this workshop within their own regions. We will be evaluating mood, attitudinal, and behavioral outcomes in the counselors who receive this training. Lopez, in consultation with Reivich and others and in collaboration with Gallup, is conducting a large scale strengths mentoring program for college freshman. Lopez also is consulting with Discovery Television to refine a Positive Psychology curriculum for the Ready, Set, Learn project. Findings of several intervention projects are the focus of manuscripts that will be submitted to appropriate APA journals.
9) Amy Wrzesniewski (NYU), Jane Dutton (Michigan) and Monica Worline (Michigan): Positive Psychology of Organizations. The pod is pursuing five research areas:
• Meaning at Work: The pod will hold its second conference on meaning and work in St. Louis, May 2005, with faculty and graduate students from several universities. The pod is publishing a piece titled "Career as a Calling" in the new Sage Encylopedia on Careers.
• Compassion and Relationships: The pod will publish "The Organizing of Compassion " in Administrative Science Quarterly (provisional acceptance) and "Seeing Organizations Differently: Three Lenses on Compassion" For the Handbook of Organization Studies, 2nd edition Clegg, S.R., Hardy, C. Lawrence, T.B., & Nord, W. R (London: Sage Publications).
• Courage: The pod has published four chapters on courage.
• Organizational Toxicity and Healing: It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our pod mate Peter Frost in 2004. A website on his research on toxicity and healing is at www.toxinhandler.com.
• Positive Organization Scholarship (POS): The pod continues to build a community of scholars through its website (www.bus.umich.edu/Positive/Default.htm), web distribution of extensive teaching notes on POS, and a new Professional Development Workshop that will be held at the August 2005 Academy of Management Meetings.
10) Laura King (SMU), Jefferson Singer (Connecticut), and Melanie Green (Penn): Rising to the Occasion: Narrative Pod. The goal of the Narrative Pod is to understand how individuals experience and narrate episodes of personal growth in their lives. This pod has been working on two forms of personal growth: 1) "Rising to the occasion," including overcoming obstacles, striving against adversity, accommodating major life changes, and 2) A more receptive/passive form of growth via experience, which appears to include relationships, ritual and community, and reflection (for example, reflection on art or nature. As planned, we have now revised our Personal Growth Scale (PGS), based on two more waves of data collection at Connecticut College and the University of Pennsylvania. We also collected narrative accounts of moments of personal growth and coded these memories for types of growth (e.g., rising to the occasion, letting go, self-transcendence)and examined their relationship to the PGS. In addition, we correlated scores on the PGS subscales with Big 5 personality dimensions. This work has been submitted as a poster to the American Psychological Association. The revised PGS has now been inserted into the item pool to be administered to approx. 1000 students at the University of Missouri - Columbia. Our goal after these results are complete is to proceed with write-up and publication.
11) Barry Schwartz (Swarthmore), Andrew Ward (Swarthmore), Shelly Gable (UCLA), and Darrin Lehman (UBC). Maximizing vs. Satisficing Pod. The Maximizing-Satisficing Pod has found that giving certain people more options can make them worse off. These are maximizers, people who seek the best possible option across an array of choices. Other people, satisficers, are able to avoid such psychological difficulties. The pod found that satisficers are less worried about regret, more optimistic, happier, more satisfied with life, less neurotic, and less depressed than maximizers. Satisficers are also more satisfied than maximizers with their decisions. Maximizing college seniors looking for jobs do better than satisficing college seniors, but feel worse on a dozen different measures. In the last year, we have gathered evidence from Hong Kong, Beijing, Denmark, and Cuba that confirms these basic findings, though there are some interesting cultural differences. Most notable is that Cubans have lower maximizing scores than others and Cuban maximizers are not unhappy (perhaps because being a maximizer is not a problem in an environment with little choice. We have also reproduced the basic patterns of data, regarding both choice overload and maximizing, in 7-year-old children. Research is currently underway investigating maximizing/satisficing in medical decision-making, and in romantic relations. We are also beginning to explore the relation between maximizing and materialism. Finally, we are looking at whether exposing people to lots of information about options (as in a typical Consumer Reports article) turns them into maximizers, at least in that domain, and decreases their satisfaction with the decisions they make.
12) Sonja Lyubomirsky (UC Riverside), Ken Sheldon (U. Missouri-Columbia), and David Schkade (U. Texas-Austin): The Architecture of Sustainable Happiness. This pod is currently conducting research, supported by a grant from NIH, to test whether sustainable increases in happiness are possible through the practice of intentional, effortful activities. In sum, the PI (Lyubomirsky) and co-PI (Sheldon) are conducting seven longitudinal studies to examine the effects of applying three promising happiness-boosting activities: counting one’s blessings, visualizing best possible selves, and committing acts of kindness. The studies include undergraduate samples, as well as community adult, and immigrant South Korean and Russian samples. In addition, Lyubomirsky and Sheldon are testing whether the model can be applied to clinically depressed individuals. Finally, the theoretical framework underlying this research is going to be published in Review of General Psychology. Two other papers, one in press and one under review, also describe research conducted by the pod. This pod has completed its activities.
13) James Pawelski (Albright) and John Lachs (Vanderbilt): Positive Liberal Arts. This pod continues to focus its efforts on facilitating dialog between positive psychologists and philosophers. This pod sponsored a conference on "The Philosophical History of Strengths and Virtues" at the University of Pennsylvania. The purpose of the conference, which was held September 2-4, 2004, was to foster dialogue between Positive Psychology and philosophy through an examination of the philosophical underpinnings of the Values in Action Classification of Strengths and Virtues. Among the speakers were Martin Seligman, Christopher Peterson, Barry Schwartz, Martha Nussbaum, and a handful of leading thinkers representing various philosophical schools. We are currently at work on a volume of essays based on the conference presentations. Additionally, a member of the Pod was the guest editor of a special summer issue of Streams of William James on the topic "William James and Positive Psychology."
14) Jonathan Schooler (Pittsburgh), Daniel Gilbert (Harvard), and Timothy Wilson (Virginia): Mispredicting Unhappiness: Predicted and Experienced Affect. The purpose of this pod is to examine the degree to which individuals’ predictions of future affective states correspond to both implicit and explicit measures of affect. Supported research found that individuals consistently overestimate the magnitude and duration of the negative affect that they subsequently report in response to modest negative events. In addition, however, this research found even larger discrepancies between predicted responses and implicitly measured affect. These findings suggest that individuals may not only overestimate the negative affect that they will experience in the future, but they may even unknowingly exaggerate the negative affect that they experience in the present. In short, people may be happier then they know. A primary goal was to examine the degree to which individuals predictions of future affective states correspond to both implicit and explicit measures of affect. Supported research found that individuals consistently overestimate the magnitude and duration of the negative affect that they subsequently report in response to modest negative events. This pod has completed its activities.
15) Lisa Aspinwall, Carol Sansone, and Cynthia Berg (all of Utah): Future-Oriented Thinking, Feeling, and Acting Across the Lifespan. This pod substantially extended its work with the design and initiation of a new line of research that pairs experimental laboratory studies of emotion, future-oriented thinking, and preventive health behavior with field experiments among high-risk cancer patients and their families. Ideas generated in prior years regarding the effects of anticipated positive and negative emotions on beliefs and intentions regarding preventive health behavior were tested in an experiment involving college students in the top and bottom quartiles of risk for melanoma and other skin cancers. Preliminary findings suggest that students in the high-risk group in whom a positive mood was induced reported that their risk of getting melanoma was higher, reported greater intentions to undertake precautionary behavior, and reported that they would feel worse if they did not undertake important precautionary behaviors with respect to UV exposure, compared to high-risk participants in the neutral condition. They also reported greater belief that the recommended precautions would be helpful in reducing their risk.
The pod has been using these findings to plan a new set of studies to test their applications in the high-risk cancer clinic setting. Specifically, Lisa Aspinwall has developed a new collaboration with the Familial Melanoma Research Clinic of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. She will be working with the physicians and genetic counselors there to understand how emotional aspects of future-oriented thinking influence people for whom precautionary behaviors and regular adherence to screening recommendations are a matter of life and death. The pod has a rare opportunity to conduct a prospective longitudinal study of psychological responses to genetic testing as a function of optimism, health cognitions, and other factors. Pod funds will be used to support multiple aspects of this new collaboration, such as meetings, literature searches, and consultation with experts in health risk communication and family decision-making in the medical context.
16) Barbara Fredrickson (Michigan) and Kevin Rathunde (Utah): Experiential Education. The aim of the Experiential Education Pod was to foster sensitivity to ongoing momentary experience so that students can learn to cultivate more meaningful positive emotions in their daily lives. This goal was pursued through the construction of a diary intervention designed to highlight opportunities that can promote positive emotions and optimal experience. Exploratory studies conducted at the University of Utah (N > 300) have been used to guide the development of the diary. Unpublished findings suggest that utilizing a nightly diary has had mixed success in promoting students' overall quality of experience. The activities of this pod have ended.
17) Paolo Inghilleri (Univ. of Verona): A Psychosocial Model of Meaningful Materialism. The research goal is to show the psychological and cultural factors leading towards a meaningful materialism. The hypothesis is that the materialistic behavior depends on the interaction among the individual, the symbolic system of the culture (domain), and the social forces leading it (field). This pod observed and interviewed 5 target communities. Two further target groups (nuns and laic Christian community Focolarini) were also interviewed. This pod has completed research on western Italian subcultures characterized by low consumption and meaningful use of objects. Based on the theoretical frame of flow of consciousness and creativity by Csikszentmihalyi and Gardner, data collected show that people (belonging to an “extreme sample”) act in what has been defined as “meaningful materialism”. This behavior, defining a particular configuration of the relationship among individual psychism, field and domain, is based on three different mechanisms: 1) Trauma recovery, 2) Conflict, empowerment, psychic complexity, and 3) Asynchronicity resolution, psychic complexity, creativity. The research results were published in the book by Paolo Inghilleri, La Buona VIta.Per l'Uso Creativo Degli Oggetti Nella Societ` Dell'abbondanza (The Good Life: Towards the Creative Use of Objects in the Affluent Society), Milano: Guerini Editore, December 2003. More data will be published in journals throughout 2004. This pod has completed its activities.
18) Julie Bower (UCLA), Elissa Epel (UC San Francisco), and Judy Moskowitz (UC San Francisco): Stress and Thriving Pod. The Stress and Thriving pod is devoted to understanding how people facing major stressors develop enhanced psychological and physiological functioning, or "thriving". During the past year, the pod has been conducting data analysis for an empirical study designed to identify psychological and physiological characteristics of thrivers. Study participants were breast cancer survivors who reported positive changes in self-concept, relationships, and/or priorities and goals as a result of their cancer experience; these women were compared to survivors who do not report positive changes related to breast cancer. Both groups of women completed daily diaries assessing mood, stress, coping, and goal-related activities and provided blood and saliva samples to assess hormonal and immune parameters that may be linked to positive psychological states, including cortisol and DHEA. Preliminary results suggest that compared to controls, thrivers experience more daily positive events and also show lower serum levels of IL-6, a proinflammatory cytokine that has been linked to increased risk for disease. Results from this study will inform our understanding of positive psychological changes following cancer and other major life stressors and their biological correlates.
19) Willibald Ruch (Zurich), Rod A. Martin (Western Ontario), and Christopher Peterson (Michigan): Humor Pod. The humor pod continues to promote and conduct research on humor and related variables (e.g., playfulness, cheerfulness, laughter) as psychological strengths, and their forms, origins, and consequences. Rod Martin is currently taking a sabbatical year, and is writing a book on the psychology of humor, which will hopefully generate renewed interest among psychologists in humor as an aspect of Positive Psychology. He continues to conduct research and publish articles based on the Humor Styles Questionnaire, examining distinctions between positive psychological aspects of sense of humor and more detrimental forms of humor. Willibald co-organized and lectured at the 4th International Summer School and Symposium on Humour and Laughter that was held at the University of Wolverhampton, UK between September 6 and 11, 2004. Furthermore, he is involved in writing up the results of an fMRI-study trying to identify brain regions associated with the perception of humor, humor-induced smiling and humorless-grinning which will be submitted to a major brain journal. Finally, in fall he held a course on positive psychology at the University of Zurich.
20) Fredrik Ullen (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden): Creativity Pod. The aims of the pod are to characterize which brain regions are specifically involved in musical creativity, using improvisation on a given melody as a model task, and to investigate the neural correlates of the flow, a mental state of high concentration and positive emotion coupled to high performance. Right-handed, trained concert pianists (n=11) have been used as subjects and brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The experimental part of the study is finished. Data on brain activity relating to improvisation and recall of improvised material from memory were presented on the Human Brain Mapping conference in New York and on the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in New Orleans. In brief, we showed that the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices and superior parietal areas, that include brain regions known to be involved in language processing, are specifically involved in musical improvisation. Replay of previously performed improvisations from memory was accompanied by brain activity in higher auditory regions in the superior temporal cortex, as well as inferior frontal cortex. The significance of these activation patterns is discussed in a manuscript, which we are in the process of finalizing. This research has been completed.
21) Fred Bryant (Loyola, Chicago), Darryl Maybery (Latrobe, Australia), and Tracy Lindberg (British Columbia): Savoring Pod. The Savoring Pod has continued work developing and validating a self-report instrument assessing individuals' dominant savoring strategies, or thoughts and behaviors that people use to intensify and prolong enjoyment of positive experiences. Data collection continues in three cultures to establish the structure and construct validity of the new instrument. To date, over 2,500 Japanese, Australian, and American college students have completed the instrument in relation to a recent vacation, good grade, date with someone special, or positive event of their choosing. Results confirm the instrument's multidimensional structure across cultures, demonstrate the cross-cultural generalizability of gender differences in levels of savoring, and reveal interesting cross-cultural variations in the meaning, value, and consequences of savoring. We are currently beginning analyses evaluating the instrument's construct validity in relation to selected criterion measures, and are integrating the completed studies into a comprehensive manuscript to be submitted for publication in a major professional journal.
22) Barbara Fredrickson (Michigan) and Kevin Rathunde (Utah): Experiential Wisdom Pod. The aim of Experiential Wisdom Pod is to foster sensitivity to ongoing momentary experience so that individuals can learn to reduce materialism and cultivate more intrinsically motivating activities in their daily lives. The Experiential Wisdom and Experiential Education Pods have worked jointly to construct and assess the effectiveness of a diary intervention designed to highlight opportunities for positive experience. Exploratory studies conducted at the University of Utah (N > 300) have been used to guide the development of the diary. Unpublished findings suggest that utilizing a nightly diary had modest success in reducing materialism. The activities of this pod have ended.
23) Manfred van Dulmen (Kent State) and Anthony Ong (Notre Dame): The Methodology and Measurement Pod. This pod's progress has resulted in a book contract with Oxford University Press (OUP), as well as a forthcoming edited special issue of the Journal of Adolescence. An edited volume (by Ong and van Dulmen), entitled 'Handbook of Methods in Positive Psychology,' is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2005. The goal of this handbook is to bring together, in a single volume, over forty chapters that review and evaluate the utility of methods that currently are underutilized procedures, but which are particularly appropriate to the investigation of substantive issues in positive psychology. We have received 42 final drafts of chapters and plan to submit a complete draft to OUP by February 2005. Ong and van Dulmen met in January to discuss first drafts of these chapters and have been in continuous contact to discuss progress on the volume and feedback for the authors. A special issue of the Journal of Adolescence (JOA: edited by van Dulmen and Ong) on methodological and measurement issues in adolescent competence is scheduled for publication in fall 2006. The goal of this special issue is to bring together a set of 9 papers that focus on either new measures to study adolescent competence or particularly promising statistical approaches/issues for the study of adolescent competence. We have received permission from the JOA editors to edit this special issue and select papers for this issue. At this point 8 of the 9 potential spots for this special issue have been filled by various (inter)national authors on adolescent competence.
24) Jonathan Schooler (Pittsburgh), Dan Wegner (Harvard), John Bargh (NYU), Roy Baumeister (Florida State), and Martin Seligman (Pennsylvania): Free Will Pod. What current scientific approaches speak to the question of free will? To what degree do assumptions about free will underpin current psychological conceptualizations of human nature (including those intrinsic to positive psychology), and what are the implications of these assumptions. Discussions have revealed the powerful dialectic between the compelling intuition that individuals possess personal agency and the equally compelling evidence from science that all phenomena (including ultimately all human behavior) can be explained causally as product of prior events. While reconciling this dialectic may prove intractable, understanding its influence may be fruitful. In this regard, recent studies conducted by members of the pod have indicated that 1) individuals are often influenced by goals that they are unaware of, 2) individuals regularly attribute free volition to actions that they in fact had no control over, 3) nevertheless, belief that one has free will can be useful in causing individuals to act in morally responsible fashion. In collaboration with John Baer, Roy Baumeister is editing a book on free will that will include chapters by Schooler, Bargh, Wegner, and Baumeister. Research supported by the free will pod support, has demonstrated that introducing scientific evidence that discourages people from believing in free will can increase the likelihood of their behaving in unethical ways. This research will be presented in June 2005 at a symposium on free will and psychology (co-organized by Jonathan Schooler) at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
25) Shelly Gable (UCLA) and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau (Miami): Close Relationships Pod. This pod grew out of the observation that the literature on close relationship processes is largely based on what goes wrong (i.e., conflict, aggression, insecurity) to the exclusion of what goes right (i.e., fun, passion, intimacy). Our developed a model of close relationship outcomes/processes that based on principles of motivation and goal-based behavior, supported by existing basic and applied empirical literature, which integrated both the negative and positive processes. Our concrete goals were to 1) produce a manuscript outlining our theoretical model with existing empirical support for submission (e.g., Psychological Review) and 2) write a grant to test central predictions from the model. Thus far, this pod has completed drafts of sections of the review paper and hopes to submit this paper in summer 2005. And, it became clear that the topic was too broad for one paper, so a second paper has been outlined and we have invited another author to join us. Gable submitted a CAREER grant to NSF (with Laurenceau as consultant) to test the central predictions of the model. The reviews were positive and the grant was recommended for funding at the highest priority. Gable is currently waiting the final funding decision from NSF (expected by February 1, 2005).
26) Lene Arnett Jensen (Catholic Univer.), Ruth K. Chao (California, Riverside), Andrew J. Fuligni (UCLA), Jean S. Phinney (California State Univ.): Immigrant Children and Youth: Developing Skills for Succeeding. The goal of this pod is to advance theoretical and empirical scholarship on immigrant children and youth, with a focus on positive psychological and social variables. About 20% of children in the United States are first or second generation immigrants, and this number is predicted to continue to rise. Earlier work on immigrants typically assumed that they invariably would experience psychological and social problems. However, more recent work has begun to suggest that immigrants do remarkably well on diverse measures, including physical and mental health, school achievement, and avoidance of risk behaviors. The pod has organized a conference meeting on Positive Psychology and immigrant children. It will be held in conjunction with the biannual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in April of 2005. This conference will bring together junior and senior researchers.
27) Maya Tamir (Illinois) and Michael Robinson (North Dakota State): Attention Pod. In the past 6 months this pod has made substantial progress in terms of data collection. Specifically, we conducted five studies examining whether happy thoughts "prime" the attention system towards positive objects. In these studies, a positive, negative, or neutral priming stimulus was presented. Following this priming phase, a pair of word stimuli were presented, one of which was neutral (e.g., shoe) and one of which was positive (e.g., love). We will seek to determine whether positive primes shift the attention system towards positive stimuli within the selective attention task. Data from these studies are currently being analyzed. In addition, we have previously shown that positive mood states shift attention toward positive stimuli (Tamir & Robinson, 2004). The attentional bias may be driven by the affective tone of the mood state (i.e., positive) as well as by the motivational system that underlies it (i.e., approach). Whereas excitement is a positive mood state that reflects the approach system, anger is a negative mood state that reflects the approach system. In an attempt to understand what underlies attention to positive information, we recently conducted a study to examine whether anger, like excitement, shifts attention to positive stimuli, or whether anger, like anxiety, shifts attention to negative stimuli.
28) Omri Gillath (UC Davis), Mario Mikulincer (Israel), Phillip Shaver (UC Davis): Attachment Pod. This pod’s previous report mentioned receiving a grant from the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL, Templeton Foundation) to develop a virtual reality measure of compassion. This pod has now developed the programming for that measure and explored its nature and correlates in an initial study. Funding has also been acquired for fMRI studies of compassion, half of the money coming from the Fetzer Institute and the other half coming from the UC Davis Imaging Center. Members of the pod have given 16 talks so far in 2004 related to our studies of compassion and caregiving, with very diverse venues (e.g., several American universities and conferences, including the International Positive Psychology Summit in Washington, DC; several Israeli universities; and a week-long meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India). Two manuscripts have been submitted to peer-reviewed journals summarizing studies of compassion and attachment security, compassion, altruism, and moral virtues. The first one is now in press at Personal Relationships, and the second was revised and resubmitted to JPSP. Pairs or all three member of the pod have met several times, including at SPSP, International Association of Relationship Research, and APA. All three pod members will be meeting again this month at SPSP. At IARR in July the pod participated in paper sessions and a breakfast discussion meeting about compassion research. In September this pod held a conference on love at UC Davis, and Guilford Publications agreed to publish the conference proceedings as a book. This pod is working with a large team of neuroscientists on a proposal to study intensive (full-time for one year) Shamatha meditation, including both brain measures of attention and emotion, and various measures of socio-emotional and moral change.
29) John Abela (McGill), Chad McWhinnie (McGill), Tayab Rashid (Pennsylvania), Afroze Anjum (Pennsylvania): Strengths Development Pod. This pod entitled "Fostering the Development of Strengths and Values in Canadian and Chinese Youth" has made significant progress in the past three months. Eight undergraduate psychology students at McGill University, all with extensive experience working with children and adolescents, were invited to be camp leaders for the 2005 Montreal site. These students have met weekly with Dr. Abela and Chad McWhinnie for past three months to discuss readings pertaining to the 24 strenghs assessed by the VIA and to design interventions targeting each strength. Dr. Abela and Chad McWhinnie will meet with Dr. Rashid in February 2005 to finalize the intervention. The project will be presented to the English Montreal School Board in February 2005 to secure approval to recruit program participants from English Montreal Schools. Dr. Abela has secured agreement from Dr. Yao, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Central South University and Chairman of the Hunan Psychological Society, to collaborate in running the Changsha site in the summer of 2006. Dr. Abela will visit Changsha in March of 2005 to oversee the commencement of the translation-back translation process for all measures.
30) Shinobu Kitayama (Chicago), Batja Mesquita (Wake Forest), Mayumi Karasawa (Tokyo), and Shige Oishi (Illinois): Culture Pod. This pod has exchanged working papers (in press) on the topic of culture and emotion and has discussed their latest ideas and findings. Discussions have focused on the ways in which positive affect is differentially shaped by different cultural models (i.e., ideals and practices) of relationships. To develop specific research project, we met in Minneapolis in July, 2001.As a result, we designed three lines of cross-cultural research: (1) the role of significant others in task performance, persistence, and emotion, (2) covariation of emotions between partners (and close friends); and (3) how to create pride- and gratitude-inducing social environments. All three lines of research address key issues in positive psychology such as willpower, self-control, relationships, happiness, and gratitude in multiple levels from intrapsychic to relational to societal.
31) Randy Ernst and Amy Fineburg: Teaching Positive Psychology. The Teaching Positive Psychology pod promoted and helped distribute a unit plan on Positive Psychology (published by the APA for TOPSS) while giving numerous presentations around the country in support of a high school psychology textbook, resource binder, and teacher's edition that is infused with positive psychology throughout (published by Worth Publishers). Both of these publication efforts will result in long-term promotion of positive psychology as high school students are introduced to the movement at the same time as they are introduced to psychology. In addition, Positive Psychology has been presented to high school and collegiate psychology teachers through various presentations, including most notably the National Council for the Social Studies annual convention in Baltimore, Maryland. This annual convention serves over 5,000 attendees, and the session on Positive Psychology was attended by over 40 teachers. A task force member served on the planning committee for this year's NCSS convention.
The Task Force plans to continue ongoing projects for 2005 through 2006. Ongoing plans include the further development of the positive humanities unit plan. Martin Seligman will be piloting a reading list of positive literature, and work in this area should facilitate the use of strengths and virtues in the teaching of English. This task force is also working to revise a grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities that will support a two-week positive humanities institute to be held in 2006. The institute will pull award-winning teachers from multiple content areas together to discuss the teaching of a positive humanities course of study in secondary schools. Finally, task force members will continue to conduct research on the relationship between optimism and teaching in two different states. Work in the 2005-2006 school year will focus on establishing a baseline of optimism levels for teachers in general and exploring the optimism levels of students who take advantage of make-up test opportunities. In the summer of 2005, task force members will lead a workshop on optimism and teaching strategies, and during the 2005-2006 school year, students of teachers who attended the optimism workshop will be monitored to see if optimism levels, grades, discipline referrals, and attendance records are affected by having more optimistic teachers.