Some of the greatest minds within the field of positive psychology met to discuss its critiques and criticism at the World Conference of Positive Psychology.
If you were not in attendance, this article is for you.
You’ll find all of them categorized and listed below. Panel members: (from left to right)
- Kim Cameron
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Jonathan Haidt
- Barbara Fredrickson
- Martin Seligman
- Carmelo Vazquez
This panel of incredible researchers addressed the main critiques of positive psychology.
The four main categories of criticism are around research issues, culture/values, manipulation/unethical issues, simplistic/narrow issues, and practice issues.
- Research findings are often invalid, overstated, and misleading. Mis-analyzing data and misinterpreting, or over-claiming results, are common.
- Too much emphasis exists on self-report and cross-sectional survey data. Unconscious and non-rational phenomena are ignored.
- Positive psychology is not guided by an overarching theory or framework.
- Sweeping claims are made about human nature and the causes of happiness, often based on few studies of students.
- Positive psychology reinforces and is applicable only to the existing western socio-economic system and value system. It is Euro-centric or US-centric and emphasizes individualism, capitalism, and western definitions of happiness.
- Positive psychology represents the perpetuation of a values-based perspective, not rigorous science.
- Positive psychology has a white middle-class bias and ignores the plight of minorities and disadvantaged groups. Poverty, inequality, injustice, repression, and other societal problems are ignored.
- Positive psychology is ethnocentric and neglects cultural, social, economic, and situational context issues. The West is superimposing its dominance on the rest of the world.
- Positive interventions manipulate clients and employees. People are made to feel good in order to coerce from certain outcomes.
- Happiness is a manipulative technique used to take advantage of workers.
- The values of positive psychology are not conducive to an increase in human freedom, but rather are conducive to conformity.
- Positive psychology is merely warmed-over “power of positive thinking” from the 1940s and 1950s. There is nothing new here, and the findings are mostly common sense.
- Positive psychology is merely a focus on “happyology,” or the oversimplified pursuit of happiness.
- Positive psychology implies that the rest of psychology is negative.
- The term “positive” connotes more pizzazz than substance, and the field has garnered attention merely because the term sounds interesting. (But there’s not much there…)
- Positive psychology bans negativity and negative emotions from scientific exploration and from workplace dynamics.
- Positive psychology treads on the domains of philosophy and theology, as well as humanistic psychology, but does it in a less-sophisticated and mature way. Partnerships with other disciplines—e.g., sociology, anthropology, medicine, political science, economics—have not been formed.
- Positive psychology is too individualistic in focus and neglects relational phenomena.
- Life is complex and a focus on only the positive is wishful thinking.
- Positive psychology is too superficial and fixated on happiness-related outcomes while being oriented towards prescriptions of universal rules for internal personal change.
- Many people practice positive psychology without a proper grounding in behavioral sciences and without being guided by professional ethics. Great harm can be done.
What do you think of these critiques of positive psychology? I’d personally like to conclude this list by saying the following:
— Seph Fontane Pennock (@SephFontane) 27 juni 2015