Advertisement

Scientific Pollyannaism of Authentic Happiness, Learned Optimism, Flow and the Empirically Correct Positivity Ratios

  • Oksana Yakushko
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter positions contemporary “positive psychology as an iteration of scientific Pollyannaism,” tracking the development of this movement, including the financial and political support it was shown for the sake of personal and professional gain. The torture of animals and human beings in pursuit of positive-psychological research is discussed. In addition, the chapter highlights a significant push to re-introduce evolutionary and biologized views of happiness as genetic, as well as links between research in positive psychology and organizations and scientists who uphold racial and other inequalities. Some problematic scientific assumptions of positive psychology are noted, in particular its denials of the significance of socio-political context or oppression.

Keywords

Positive psychology Torture of animals Torture of human beings Funding sources of positive psychology Scientism Misrepresentations of data Behavioral genetics Evolutionary psychology Racist sciences 

References

  1. The American Renaissance. (2019). About us. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/about/.
  2. Biswas-Diener, R., Linley, P. A., Govindji, R., & Woolston, L. (2011). Positive psychology as a force for social change. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 410–418). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouchard, T. J. (1996). Galton lecture: Behaviour genetic studies of intelligence, yesterday and today: The long journey from plausibility to proof. Journal of Biosocial Science, 28(4), 527–555.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brody, D., & Lamb, S. (2018). The faith of Donald J. Trump: A spiritual biography. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, N. J., Sokal, A. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2013). The complex dynamics of wishful thinking: The critical positivity ratio. The American Psychologist, 68(9), 801–813.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, N. J., Sokal, A. D., & Friedman, H. L. (2014). Positive psychology and romantic scientism. The American Psychologist, 69(6), 636–637.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buss, D. M. (2000). The evolution of happiness. American Psychologist, 55(1), 15–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buss, D. M. (2009). The great struggles of life: Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary psychology. American Psychologist, 64(2), 140.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cabanas, E. (2016). Rekindling individualism, consuming emotions: Constructing “psytizens” in the age of happiness. Culture & Psychology, 22(3), 467–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cayman Taxonomy Meeting. (1999). Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/opportunities/conference-archives.
  11. Center for Disease Control. (2018). Drug overdose mortality by state. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/drug_poisoning_mortality/drug_poisoning.htm.
  12. Center for Disease Control. (2019). Suicide mortality by state. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/suicide-mortality/suicide.htm.
  13. Chirot, D. E., & Seligman, M. E. (Eds.). (2001). Ethnopolitical warfare: Causes, consequences, and possible solutions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  14. Cogdell, C. (2010). Eugenic design: Streamlining America in the 1930s. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cornum, R., Matthews, M. D., & Seligman, M. E. (2011). Comprehensive soldier fitness: Building resilience in a challenging institutional context. American Psychologist, 66(1), 4–11.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coyne, J. C., Stefanek, M., & Palmer, S. C. (2007). Psychotherapy and survival in cancer: The conflict between hope and evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 133(3), 367–394.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.133.3.367.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coyne, J. C., & Tennen, H. (2010). Positive psychology in cancer care: Bad science, exaggerated claims, and unproven medicine. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 39(1), 16–26.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-009-9154-z.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  19. The Daily Beast. (2011). List of the most tolerant and the least tolerant states. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.thedailybeast.com/ranking-the-most-tolerant-and-least-tolerant-states.
  20. Diener, E. (2009a). Positive psychology: Past, present, and future. In S. J. Lopez & S. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 7–11). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Diener, E. (Ed.). (2009b). The science of well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  22. Deiner, E., Kesebir, P., & Lucas, R. (2008). Benefits of accounts of well-being–For societies and for psychological science. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 57(Suppl. 1), 37–53.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2008.00353.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Beyond money toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5(1), 1–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Duke, D. E. (1999). My awakening: A path to racial understanding. Convington, LA: Free Speech Press.Google Scholar
  25. Easton, M. (2006). Does diversity make us unhappy? The American Renaissance. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2006/06/does_diversity/.
  26. Ehrenreich, B. (2007). John Templeton’s universe. The Nation. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.thenation.com/article/john-templetons-universe/.
  27. Ehrenreich, B. (2009). Bright-sided: How the relentless promotion of positive thinking is undermining America. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  28. Fischer, R., & Chalmers, A. (2008). Is optimism universal? A meta-analytical investigation of optimism levels across 22 nations. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(5), 378–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-notch research reveals the 3 to 1 ratio that will change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  30. Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Updated thinking on positivity ratios. American Psychologist, 68(9), 814–822.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033584.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678–686.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Friedman, H. L., & Brown, N. J. (2018). Implications of debunking the “Critical Positivity Ratio” for humanistic psychology: Introduction to special issue. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 239–261.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., & Colen, C. G. (2011). Excess black mortality in the United States and in selected black and white high-poverty areas, 1980–2000. American Journal of Public Health, 101(4), 720–729.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gould, S. J. (1996). The mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  35. Grossi, G., Kelly, S., Nash, A., & Parameswaran, G. (2014). Challenging dangerous ideas: A multidisciplinary critique of evolutionary psychology. Dialectical Anthropology, 38(3), 281–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Held, B. S. (2004). The negative side of positive psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 44(1), 9–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Held, B. S. (2018). Positive psychology’s a priori problem. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 313–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Independent Review Report. (2015). American Psychological Association. Retrieved on October 5, 2016 from https://www.apa.org/independent-review/APA-FINAL-Report-7.2.15.pdf.
  39. Iyer, V. R. K. (1990). Human rights and human wrong. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  40. Jacobs, T. (2013). Study: Extreme conservatives make happier people. The American Renaissance. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2013/07/study-extreme-conservatives-make-happier-people.
  41. Joseph, S., & Murphy, D. (2013). Person-centered approach, positive psychology, and relational helping: Building bridges. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53(1), 26–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kamin, L. J. (2012). The science and politics of IQ. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Kanazawa, S., & Li, N. P. (2015). Happiness in modern society: Why intelligence and ethnic composition matter. Journal of Research in Personality. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2017/12/happiness-modern-society-intelligence-ethnic-composition-matter/.
  44. Keith, T. (2017). How positive thinking helped propel Trump to presidency. NPR All Things Considered Report. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.npr.org/2017/01/19/510628862/how-positive-thinkinghelped-propel-trump-to-the-presidency.
  45. Krieshok, T. (2016). Eulogy for Shane Lopez. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 from http://www.people.ku.edu/~tkrieshok/Lopez_eulogy.pdf.
  46. Kruse, M. (2017). The power of Trump’s positive thinking. The Politico. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/13/donald-trump-positive-thinking-215704.
  47. Lewontin, R. C., Rose, S., & Kamin, L. J. (1984). Not in our genes: Biology, ideology, and human nature. New York, NY: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  48. Lombardo, P. A. (Ed.). (2011). A century of eugenics in America: From the Indiana experiment to the human genome era. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Lopez, S. J. (2013). Making hope happen: Create the future you want for yourself and others. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  50. Lopez, S. J., & Gallagher, M. W. (2009). A case for positive psychology. In S. J. Lopez & S. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 3–6). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lopez, S. J., Magyar-Moe, J. L., Petersen, S. E., Ryder, J. A., Krieshok, T. S., O’Byrne, K. K., … Fry, N. A. (2006). Counseling psychology’s focus on positive aspects of human functioning. The Counseling Psychologist, 34(2), 205–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lopez, S. J., Pedrotti, J. T., & Snyder, C. R. (2018). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar
  54. MacInnis, C. C., Busseri, M. A., Choma, B. L., & Hodson, G. (2013). The happy cyclist: Examining the association between generalized authoritarianism and subjective well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(7), 789–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Magyar-Moe, J. L., & Lopez, S. J. (2008). Human agency, strengths-based development and well being. Biennial Review of Counseling Psychology, 1, 157–175.Google Scholar
  56. Magyar-Moe, J. L., Owens, R. L., & Scheel, M. J. (2015). Applications of positive psychology in counseling psychology: Current status and future directions. The Counseling Psychologist, 43(4), 494–507.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000015581001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McKinnon, S. (2006). Neo-liberal genetics: The myths and moral tales of evolutionary psychology. Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press.Google Scholar
  58. Miller, A. (2008). A critique of positive psychology—Or ‘The new science of happiness’. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3/4), 591–608.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00646.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Nickerson, C. A. (2014). No empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios. The American Psychologist, 69(6), 626.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Nickerson, C. A. (2018). There is no empirical evidence for critical positivity ratios: Comment on Fredrickson (2013). Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(3), 284–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Oikkonen, V. (2013). Gender, sexuality and reproduction in evolutionary narratives. London, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ong, A. D., & van Dulmen, M. H. (Eds.). (2006). Oxford handbook of methods in positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Palmer, S. C., Stefanek, M. E., Thombs, B. D., & Coyne, J. C. (2010). Psychological intervention and survival: Wishing does not make it so–Letter. Clinical Cancer Research.  https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-1703.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Pedrotti, J. T., Edwards, L. M., & Lopez, S. J. (2009). Positive psychology within a cultural context. In S. J. Lopez & S. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 49–57). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Pérez-Álvarez, M. (2013). Positive psychology and its friends: Revealed. Papeles del Psicólogo, 34(3), 208–226.Google Scholar
  66. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. PhysOrg. (2014). Danish DNA could be key to happiness. The American Renaissance. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2014/07/danish-dna-could-be-key-to-happiness.
  68. Pinker, S. (2018). Enlightenment now: The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  69. Pluess, M. (Ed.). (2015). Genetics of psychological well-being: The role of heritability and genetics in positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Popenoe, P., & Johnson, R. H. (1935). Applied eugenics (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  71. Porter, E. (1913). Pollyanna. Boston, MA: Colonial Press.Google Scholar
  72. Pulla, V. (2016). The Lhotsampa people of Bhutan: Resilience and survival. New York, NY: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Robbins, B. D., & Friedman, H. (2008). Introduction to our Special Issue on Positive Psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 36(2), 93–95.Google Scholar
  74. Rose, H., & Rose, S. (2010). Alas poor Darwin: Arguments against evolutionary psychology. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  75. Rushton, J. P., & Jensen, A. R. (2005). Wanted: More race realism, less moralistic fallacy. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(2), 328–336.  https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-8971.11.2.328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Ruti, M. (2015). The age of scientific sexism: How evolutionary psychology promotes gender profiling and fans the battle of the sexes. Toronto, ON: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  77. Science Daily. (2015). How your brain reacts to emotional information is influenced by your genes. The American Renaissance. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2015/07/how-your-brain-reactsto*emotional-information-is-influenced-by-your-genes/.
  78. Science Friday. (2018). What makes your brain happy? National Public Radio segment recorded on July 13, 2018. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 from https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/what-makes-your-brain-happy/.
  79. The Science of Happiness. (2019). Research-based tips for a meaningful life. A co-production with the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The Public Radio International. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.pri.org/programs/science-happiness.
  80. Seligman, M. E. (1975). Helplessness: On depression, development, and death. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman/Times Books/Henry Holt & Co.Google Scholar
  81. Seligman, M. E. (2002). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. New York, NY: Vintage.Google Scholar
  82. Seligman, M. E. (2006). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  83. Seligman, M. E. (2007). The optimistic child: A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  84. Seligman, M. E. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  85. Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  86. Seligman, M. E., Railton, P., Baumeister, R. F., & Sripada, C. (2017). Homo prospectus. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Seligman, M. E. P., & Fowler, R. D. (2011). Comprehensive soldier fitness and the future of psychology. American Psychologist, 66(1), 82–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sheldon, K. M., Frederickson, B., Rathunde, K., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Haidt, J. (2000). Positive psychology manifesto. Retrieved on October 5, 2016 from http://www.positivepsychology.org/akumalmanifesto.html.
  91. Sheldon, K. M., Kashdan, T. B., & Steger, M. F. (Eds.). (2010). Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Simonton, D. K. (2011). Positive psychology in historical and philosophical perspective: Predicting its future from the past. In K. M. Sheldon, T. B. Kashdan, & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 447–454). New York: Oxford University Press [Orig. 2010].Google Scholar
  93. Sleeper, J. (2016). The conservatives behind the campus free speech crusade. The American Prospect. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 from https://prospect.org/article/conservatives-behind-campus-‘free-speech’-crusade.
  94. Soldz, S. (2016). The comprehensive soldier fitness program: Discontinued and misrepresented positive psychology. In S. Soldz, & O. Yakushko (Co-chairs), Ethics of social justice/Social justice of ethics: Implications for psychology and psychologists. Symposium presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Denver, CO.Google Scholar
  95. The Source Watch. (2019). John Templeton, Jr. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/John_Templeton,_Jr.
  96. South Dakota Suicide Prevention. (2018). Suicide Factsheet. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from http://doh.sd.gov/documents/statistics/SuicideFactsheet.pdf.
  97. Southern Poverty Law Center. (2019). Fighting hate/extremist files: The American Renaissance. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/american-renaissance.
  98. Stefanek, M. E., Palmer, S. C., Thombs, B. D., & Coyne, J. C. (2009). Finding what is not there. Cancer, 115(24), 5612–5616.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Sumalla, E. C., Ochoa, C., & Blanco, I. (2009). Posttraumatic growth in cancer: Reality or illusion? Clinical Psychology Review, 29(1), 24–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Sutter, J. D. (2014). List: States where rape is most common. CNN Report. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.cnn.com/2014/02/03/opinion/sutter-alaska-rape-list/index.html.
  101. Taylor, J. (2011). Genetics, personality, and race. American Renaissance. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.amren.com/news/2011/07/genetics_person/.
  102. Templeton Foundation. (2019). Funding Areas. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.templeton.org/funding-areas.
  103. Tucker, W. H. (1996). The science and politics of racial research. Carbondale: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  104. Waldrop, M. K. (2011). Religion: Faith in science. Nature, 470, 323–325.  https://doi.org/10.1038/470323a. Retrieved on April 1, 2019 from https://www.nature.com/news/2011/110216/full/470323a.html.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Watson, J. B. (1914). Behavior: An introduction to comparative psychology. New York, NY: H. Holt.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Watson, J. B. (1919). Psychology: From the standpoint of a behaviorist. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Watson, J. B. (1928). Psychological care of infant and child. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  108. Weiss, A., Adams, M. J., Widdig, A., & Gerald, M. S. (2011). Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta) as living fossils of hominoid personality and subjective well-being. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 125(1), 72–83.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Williams, T. (2015). What makes Templeton tick and just how scary is this place. The Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved on January 14, 2019 from https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2015/1/6/what-makes-templetontick-and-just-how-scary-is-this-place-a.html.
  110. Wong, P. T. (2011). Reclaiming positive psychology: A meaning-centered approach to sustainable growth and radical empiricism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 51(4), 408–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Wright, R. (1994). The moral animal: The new science of evolutionary psychology. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  112. Yakushko, O. (2018). Don’t worry, be happy: Erasing racism, sexism, and poverty in positive psychology. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 16(1), e1433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Yakushko, O. (2019). Eugenics and its evolution in history of western psychology: A critical archival review. Psychotherapy and Politics International, online.Google Scholar
  114. Yakushko, O., & Blodgett, E. (2018). Negative reflections about positive psychology: On constraining the field to a focus on happiness and personal achievement. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167818794551.
  115. Yerkes, R. M. (1907). The dancing mouse: A study in animal behavior. New York, NY: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oksana Yakushko
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical PsychologyPacifica Graduate InstituteCarpinteriaUSA

Personalised recommendations