Debate about the Challenges Faced by Positive Psychology


Week 7 – Assignment: Prepare a Transcript of a Fictional Debate About the Challenges Faced by Positive Psychology 


Imagine that you are attending a psychology conference and you attend a session led by two distinguished researches in the field.  The first researcher, Dr. Adams, is extolling the successes of positive psychology and contending that this field will continue to be a viable force in modern psychology. The second researcher, Dr. Hernandez, believes that there are many challenges faced by the field of positive psychology.  The purpose of the session is to raise the challenges and listen to the arguments that are made to refute these issues.

You need to prepare a transcript of the debate that ensues between the two researchers. Each researcher has the opportunity to first explain their position (e.g. Dr. Adams will give a brief overview of why she supports positive psychology and Dr. Hernandez will give a brief overview of why he is skeptical of the field). They then have a dialogue raising points and counter points about the criticisms that have been leveled at the respective approaches.

  • What challenges would Dr. Hernandez raise?
  • How could Dr. Adams respond to these challenges?

You need to use at least 5 scholarly resources, including those you located last week. Make sure that you locate research that both supports and refutes each of the challenges.

Length: 4 pages

Your debate transcript should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect graduate-level writing and APA standards.

This week you will learn about some of the challenges faced by the field of positive psychology. These challenges range from cultural to research to scope. For example, some contend that cultural context has been virtually ignored. What constitutes a positive emotion or trait in one culture is not necessarily the same in another.

From a research perspective, there have been concerns about the rigor of the research and the conclusions that are being drawn based on a relatively small number of self-reporting participants. It is important to remember that this is still a relatively new field. Scientific studies that assess the benefits of positive psychology (e.g. positive psychology interventions) are limited. This will change, but for some psychologists the jury is out on positive psychology until more scientific studies are published.

Still further concerns relate to the fact that positive psychology seems to extol the virtues of positive thinking without acknowledging the potential disadvantages (e.g. excessive positive thinking can lead to a disassociation from reality). Conversely negative thinking is discouraged when actually it might be beneficial for some (e.g. used as a protective factor). You will encounter additional challenges as you conduct your research this week.

Since the late 1990s there have been numerous positive psychology research studies, articles, intervention techniques, etc. Many researchers have embraced positive psychology and believe that it has enhanced modern psychology. However, other researchers have raised concerns about what they perceive to be flaws and weaknesses associated with positive psychology.

Some researchers object to what they believe is an over-simplification of positivity and negativity, specifically that thinking positively is good and thinking negatively is bad. There has been research that has documented the benefits of negative thinking for some. Moreover, psychologists have questioned the wisdom of instructing people to think positively to avoid problems or to cope with issues in their lives. Their concern lies in the fact that individuals who are not able to adopt this way of thinking may feel even worse about themselves because they are led to believe that they have the power to fix their issues and they are just not.

Another criticism levelled at positive psychologists is that it lacks cultural utility. Positive psychology was borne in an individualistic culture and the application of the premises of this field in other cultures (e.g. more collectivist cultures) simply might not be valid.

It is important to consider measurement and how positive psychologists have conducted their research. There has been concern that there has been an over-reliance on self-report measures in this field. Specifically, a lot of the data has been collected via asking people to complete questionnaires about themselves and these self-reports might not always be accurate.

It is important to always evaluate both the strengths and the weaknesses. In this part of class, you are going to delve deeper into some of these key criticisms and learn about how positive psychologists have responded.