January 25, 2017

Psychologists Convene to Discuss Positive Societal Impact

Stewart Donaldson speaking at podium at conference
SSSPE Dean Stewart Donaldson addresses attendees of the WPPA conference Jan. 21, 2017.

More than 300 researchers from around the world gathered at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) Saturday, January 21, 2017, for the second annual Western Positive Psychology Association (WPPA) conference, organized by CGU’s School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation (SSSPE). The burgeoning research field of positive psychology seeks to better understand and enhance human strengths such as creativity, joy, flow, responsibility, and optimal performance and achievement.

Exploring “Positive Psychology for Societal Impact,” the day-long conference featured research panels on positive aging, mindfulness in community policing, coping styles among adolescents, and more. Highlights included a keynote from field co-founder and CGU Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as well as talks on how innovative positive and organizational psychology research at CGU and elsewhere is benefitting individuals, organizations, and diverse populations.

“Positive psychology, almost 20 years old now, has established a very interesting and useful base of knowledge, but we’re now at the phase where we really want to think about how it can be used in society,” said SSSPE Dean Stewart Donaldson in welcoming remarks to attendees. “Can we scientifically look at things that philosophers and religious leaders have been thinking about in depth for decades and centuries?”

Visiting speakers, faculty, clinicians, practitioners, and students hosted breakout panels and poster sessions throughout the day, including researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Mindful Badge Initiative, Pepperdine University, and NanChang University China.

CGU is a recognized leader in the field of positive psychology. Students in CGU’s renowned programs are trained to use experience sampling methods—as well as more traditional experimental and quasi-experimental designs, surveys, and interviews—to better understand life-long processes and outcomes of behavior as they affect the quality of life. CGU’s Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences offered the first PhD and MA concentrations in the western United States focused on the science of positive psychology.

Co-founded in 2013 by Donaldson, CGU Assistant Professor of Practice Meg Rao, and former Chapman University professor Shari Y. Kuchenbecker, the WPPA aims to convene a scientific community of faculty, students, and scholars to share the latest rigorous, evidence-based empirical research in the science of happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning.