Why Positive Psychology is Leading the Psychology Zeitgeist


When you think of the future, of the impact your life has had in forming the world we live in, what do you picture?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” -Alan Kay

The ideas, philosophies, and emotions that drive us today become our society’s personality. What we discover, uncover and explore now will prevail long after we are gone.

This is the concept behind Zeitgeist, a German word meaning ‘the spirit of the times,’ which marks a society’s prevailing intellectual perspective during a given historical period. 

The zeitgeist of 1960’s America, for example, was characterized by the counterculture and public demand for peace. The 1950s had a cognitive revolution, where it overtook behavioral psychology as the dominant psychological perspective.

Zeitgeist is something that everyone contributes to and is influenced by. With all of its intricacies and implications, the zeitgeist is almost impossible to encapsulate in the time itself; it is more readily understood in hindsight. That being said, there is always space for reflection. 

On that note, let’s explore the current state of affairs.


Today’s Psychology Zeitgeist: Recent Landmarks in the field of Psychology

Wealth inequality, social justice movements, globalization, social media, and “the selfie.” These are all examples of developments in modern society that have an influence on today’s psychology zeitgeist. There are countless more aspects, the consequences of which won’t be fully understood until a few decades have passed.

Even still, we can get a sense of where we are and where we are headed by studying the current trends in the field of psychology, most of which you may have already noticed. Here are just a few highlights:

  • As of 2014, psychology is the 2nd most popular undergraduate major in the US, with over 100,000 degrees being awarded between 2013 and 2014.
  • Psychology is playing a greater role in public policy, especially in education. Policymakers are increasingly reliant on psychological research findings.
  • Evolutionary knowledge and reasoning are driving many areas of psychology, particularly in the topics of empathy, conflict monitoring, cross-cultural psychology, and emotion regulation.

  • And of course, as you may have suspected, positive psychology has been growing academically as well as in the interest of the public eye.


Positive Psychology: Playing an Important Role in the Current Zeitgeist

Positive Psychology as a field is strikingly young. It has its roots in humanistic psychology, which was influential during the mid-to-late 1900s, however, it officially emerged as its own field in 1998 with Martin Seligman.

Since then, it has grown as an area of research, where it has quickly established major footholds in academia and is now a matter of public interest.

Let’s review some of the highlights this young field has made so far:

Almost daily there are new eyes and ears coming into contact with the findings of Positive Psychology, informing how our society thinks, writes and behaves.

Why has positive psychology gained such traction? How will this affect our societies as a result? It is too early to answer all the long-term questions, but it is never too early to start appreciating the powerful influence that positive psychology can have in the world.

What modern forces do you believe drive people to choose positive psychology and what impact do you think positive psychology is making on today’s zeitgeist?

We would love to hear your thoughts. Please share them with us in the comment box below.


Cook, E. (2004, November 21). Positive Psychology: Making the most of our lives. Retrieved from http://aphroweb.net/papers/positive-psych.htm

DeAngelis, T. (2008, April). Future trends that sizzle. Monitor on Psychology, 39(4).

Koch, C. (n.d.). Current Trends in Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.georgefox.edu/academics/undergrad/departments/psychology/ckoch/omsk/Current_Trends.PDF

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

MS, P. (n.d.). What is zeitgeist. Retrieved from http://psychologydictionary.org/zeitgeist/

Popular College Degrees and Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.matchcollege.com/top- majors

Warmoth, A., Resnick, S., & Serlin, I. (n.d.). Contributions of Humanistic Psychology to Positive Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.union-street-health- associates.com/articles/HumanisticPsych-PositivePsych.pdf

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. Judith Edwards

    Very interesting


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