Effects of optimism on psychological and physical
In their important article, McNulty and Fincham (2011) make several recommendations for the future of positive psychology.
"First, psychologists need to move beyond examining the main effects of traits and processes that may promote well–being on average to study the factors that determine when, for whom, and to what extent those factors are associated with well–being"
"Our review suggests that the psychological characteristics that benefit people experiencing optimal circumstances may not only fail to help people experiencing suboptimal circumstances, [people seeking therapy] but may harm them"
"Second, to adequately capture the moderating role of various contextual factors, we need to study the implications of psychological characteristics in the context of both health and dysfunction and in the context of both happy and unhappy people"
"As our review makes clear, the processes that benefit people facing optimal circumstances can harm people facing suboptimal circumstances. Accordingly, understanding how to relieve suffering requires studying people who are suffering, and understanding how to prevent suffering requires studying people at risk for suffering"
"Third, researchers need to move beyond cross–sectional studies to examine the implications of psychological traits and processes over substantial periods of time"
[Fourth] "Specifically, as earlier critics of positive psychology have contended (e.g., Lazarus, 2003), psychologists need to move beyond labeling psychological traits and processes as . Continuing to do so imposes values on science that influence not only what we study but also what we predict and thus report"
"we argue that positive psychology needs to be thought of as just plain psychology psychologists can have a fuller understanding of the complete human condition. That is, an understanding of the complete human condition requires recognizing that psychological traits and processes are not inherently positive or negative—whether they have positive or negative implications depends on the context in which they operate. Psychology is not positive or negative—psychology is psychology" (McNulty & Fincham, 2011, pp. 6–8).
effects of optimism on physical and psychological health essay
Lester, P. B., McBride, S., Bliese, P. D., & Adler, A. B. (2011). Bringing science to bear: An empirical assessment of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. , (1), 77–81. doi:10.1037/a0022083This article outlines the U.S. Army's effort to empirically validate and assess the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program. The empirical assessment includes four major components. First, the CSF scientific staff is currently conducting a longitudinal study to determine if the Master Resilience Training program and the Comprehensive Resilience Modules lead to lasting resilience development in soldiers. Second, the CSF program has partnered with other researchers to conduct a series of longitudinal studies examining the link between physiological, neurobiological, and psychological resilience factors. Third, the CSF program is also incorporating institutional–level data to determine if its material influences health, behavioral, and career outcomes. Fourth, group randomized trials are being conducted to ensure that resilience training incorporated under the CSF program is effective with soldiers. A specific rationale and methodologies are discussed.
In this section I want to explore what Maslow had to say in 1954 because while many people refer to Maslow's use of the term in his book, very few sources discuss what he actually said in his chapter.
Maslow said the purpose of chapter 18, Toward a positive psychology, was to discuss a major mistake made by psychologists, "namely, their pessimistic, negative, and limited conception of the full height to which the human being can attain, their totally inadequate conception of his level of aspiration in life, and their setting of his psychological limits at too low a level" (Maslow, 1954, pp. 353- 354).
Maslow noted that "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 illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his full psychological height. It is as if psychology had voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half" (Maslow, 1954, p. 354).
Maslow said this was the result of a systemic problem, that psychology reflected the ideology of the world outlook, an ideology heavy on technology but neglecting humanistic principles and values. This approach stresses behavior while neglecting the inner subjective life.
"Dynamic psychology was doomed to a negative derivation by the historical accident that psychiatry rather than experimental psychology concerned itself with the conative and emotional. It was from the study of neurotics and other people that we learned most of what we know about personality and motivation" (Maslow, 1954, p. 355).
In a subsection titled "low-ceiling psychology" Maslow discusses the mechanisms by which the blindness of psychology is perpetuated. One such mechanism is that psychology "consists only of defining science strictly in terms of past and what is already known" (Maslow, 1954, p. 356). Every new question or approach is then considered unscientific and there is no opportunity to forge new ground. Maslow describes how this status quo feels comfortable and has familiarity that makes change difficult (we tend to improve our homes by adding on rather than rebuilding).
Maslow quoted Kurt Lewin suggesting we study what rather than what or what be under ideal conditions because we identify the status quo with the ideal.
Part of this perpetuation is through self-fulfilling prophecy. Our belief in the negative and in limitations becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.
Experimental technique is another perpetuating factor. In many cases, the experimental design does not allow one to function to one's best because of the conditions. Maslow gave the example if we put tall people into a low ceiling room where they could not stand up and then we measured their height we would be measuring the height of the room and not the people inside. Self limiting methods measure only their own limitations.
"Hamilton generalized from poor, uneducated people. Freud generalized too much from neurotic people. Hobbes and other philosophers observed masses of mankind under very bad social and economic and educational conditions and came to conclusions that ought not to be generalized to men under good economic and political and educational conditions. This we may call low-ceiling or cripple or jungle psychology, but certainly not psychology" (Maslow, 1954, p. 359).
"The self-derogation of psychology is another responsible factor. Out of the general cultural trends already mentioned, psychologists tend to admire the technologically advanced sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, more than they do psychology, in spite of the fact that from the humanistic point of view psychology is obviously the new frontier, and by far the most important science today" (Maslow, 1954, p. 359).
We measure how intelligent an individual is under some actual condition but we do not measure how intelligent an individual could be under the best conditions. Measurement of the actual is inherently pessimistic compared to the theoretical measurement of what might be–the potentiality.
"If one is preoccupied with the insane, the neurotic, the psychopath, the criminal, the delinquent, the feeble-minded, one's hopes for the human species become perforce more and more modest, more and more realistic, more and more scaled down. One expects less and less from people" (Maslow, 1954, p. 360). [This reminds me of a quote attributed to Freud: "the more people I met, the less I liked people"] Maslow went on: "The exclusive study of our failures and breakdowns will hardly breed inspiration, hopefulness, and optimistic ambitions in either the layman or the scientist" (Maslow, 1954, p. 360).
"In a word, if we are interested in the psychology of the human species we should limit ourselves to the use of the self-actualizing, the psychologically healthy, the mature, the fulfilled, for they are more truly representative of the human species than the usual average or normal group. The psychology generated by the study of healthy people could fairly be called positive by contrast with the negative psychology we now have, which has been generated by the study of sick or average people" (Maslow, 1954, p. 361).
"This presents us with our practical difficulty of getting together large enough groups of individuals with whom to do statistically sound experimentation. This I have managed without too much loss of principle by arbitrarily using the best one out of one hundred of the general college population (the psychiatrically healthiest 1 percent). The other 99 percent are then discarded as imperfect, immature, or crippled specimens" (Maslow, 1954, p. 361).