Tag Archives: psychology

Positive psychology and adoption without coercion

Auguste Rodin's The Thinker.

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Although positive psychology and its bastard child Appreciative Inquiry have a cadre of Mafia-esque adherents, there’s no need to throw out the baby with the bathwaterc:

In 1998, Dr. Martin Seligman became President of the American Psychological Association (APA) and publicly promoted an entirely new field of study–known today as Positive Psychology. Dr. Seligman argued that for far too long psychological investigation was based on a disease model of human behavior. Essentially, psychology was focused on how to make people less miserable. So, Seligman challenged his fellow psychologists to develop something new – a science which instead placed emphasis on healthy human behavior, how to improve normal lives, and ultimately, how to make life more fulfilling.

The consequences of this emerging field are intriguing, but it hasn’t met with widespread adoption when it comes to corporate employee engagement practices. I’d argue that far too many of today’s corporations operate under a model that is centered on how to make work life “less miserable.” And despite all the money that companies pour into employee engagement tools and surveys, companies are still bad at making work more meaningful, more fulfilling, and more engaging. What if anything can be done? And what can corporations learn–if anything–from the field of positive psychology and other scholars in this area?

If adoption can be promoted without the oppressive, “my way is best and everything in organization development that came before is worthless” mentality, there are benefits to be realized.  I haven’t seen these ideas taken forward that way, and their adherents–who putatively value inclusion–are notoriously dismissive of that significant portion of the human experience that is not sunshine and puppies.  It’s time to view positive psychology in context.

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APA: We probably shouldn’t aid in torture

Two things surprising about this are 1. that it was necessary to formalize it; and 2. if necessary, that it took so long:

A slender majority of members in the American Psychiatric Psychological Association have voted in favor of a resolution that forbids members from aiding in torture. This was spurred by the complicity of APA members in conducting torture-based interrogation at Guantanamo Bay and other American and American-affiliated secret prisons[.]

The American Medical Association, to its credit, adopted a similar position in 1999.  The position seems reasonable, if also many years later than one would expect.  In fact, the AMA’s position is slightly more admirable, coming as it did before the torture debate became fashionable.

Two other things I found surprising about the APA resolution:

  1. “A slender majority of members…”; and
  2. Though not a psychologist, I could be subject to the provisions of this resolution.

Second thing first: by virtue of my graduate program’s affiliation with APA Division 13 – Society of Consulting Psychology (of which I am not currently an active member), the APA resolution would apply to my former classmates and the alumni of similarly affiliated programs, provided they had formally joined Division 13.  Not that I had intended to torture or assist in torturing anyone, but I wonder whether I am enjoined from writing about torture for publication in journals?  Could that act of scholarship be construed as aiding in torture?

Lastly, I have no idea why the slender minority of APA members had reservations about not being able to aid in torture.  For the moment, let’s assume that theirs are reasoned arguments.  I’d be interested to hear what they are.