An Introduction to the Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology


The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology is the most comprehensive text available about the field’s current scientific understanding of all matters related to positive psychology.

“This Encyclopedia embodies what is known in this new discipline today. It is a ‘must have’ reference for anyone interested in the field of positive psychology.” – Martin Seligman

This is high praise coming from Seligman, a current Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, often deemed the father of positive psychology. 

The Encyclopedia was edited by the late Shane J. Lopez, former Research Director of the Clifton Strengths Institute and a Gallup senior scientist. It contains contributions from 150 leading researchers, educators, and practitioners.

Researchers like Ed Diener, famous for his research on happiness, and Paul Costa, one of the developers of the Big Five personality traits, are two of the many well-respected people referenced in this book. 


A Matter of Substance

This book contains 288 entries spanning a huge breadth of topics within psychology and related concepts from the fields of social sciences, business, and industry.

It contains the biographies of influential psychologists like Gordon Allport and Jonathan Haidt, conceptual entries on topics such as cultural values and humility, and more practical topics dealing with subjects like marital happiness and effective parenting.

Above all else, this Encyclopedia is a resource that handles its topics with a focus on scientific evidence.


Who Is It For?

The two-volume text is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the science of positive psychology, including students, teachers, practitioners, business people, and policymakers. 

As the Library Journal (2009) puts it,

“The strength of the work is that it speaks to everyone clearly, concisely, and in plain English.”

The encyclopedia is more accessible than its name implies. It offers key information in a concise and rich way.


A Piece in the Puzzle

The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology is the field’s first encyclopedia and a major milestone for the movement as a foothold in the psychology zeitgeist.

The field of positive psychology is young, but the essence of positive psychology has existed for as long as humans have pondered the mysteries of happiness and purpose. The field did not officially emerge until the end of the 20th-century.

As early as 1954, one of psychology’s most influential figures, Abraham Maslow, noted the deficit that positive psychology desperately needed to fill. He wrote:

“The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side. It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illness, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height.”

Finally, in 1998, positive psychology transformed from a movement into an official field when Martin Seligman made his Presidential Address to the American Psychological Association.

In it, Seligman advocated for the field of psychology to expand beyond the context of healing illness, and into the broader endeavor of helping all people learn to lead more productive and fulfilling lives. For too long, according to Seligman, psychology focused on what is “wrong” with people rather than how people can lead their best lives. 


Positive Psychology and the Encyclopedia: A Review 

In less than 20 years, positive psychology has become a burgeoning science.

The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology, published in 2009, is a hallmark achievement representative of the academic legitimacy the field has attained.

Have you read or used this encyclopedia? Does it surprise you that positive psychology emerged relatively late as a field of study? Let us know in our comments section below. 

Linley, P. A., Joseph, S., Harrington, S., & Wood, A. M. (2006). Positive psychology: Past, present, and (possible) future. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(1), 3-16. doi:10.1080/17439760500372796

Lopez, S. J. (2009). Encyclopedia of positive psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

About the Author

Jason Kim is a writer in Los Angeles, California, with a background in teaching, psychology, and nonprofit work. He has received his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California - Berkeley, and he has worked in education in the US and Hong Kong. He has a passion for stories and believes that in sharing them, people grow in unimaginable ways.


  1. salamatee

    Thank you for a great article.

  2. Dan McDonough

    Please include me on your newsletter listing:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *