The Growing Field of Positive Psychology: Happiness

Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that is growing quickly. Roughly translated, positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living; it is the study of happiness. It studies how our actions and behaviors affect our sense of joy or satisfaction.

The title, positive psychology, is often misunderstood. It is not in any way stating that the other areas of psychology are negative. Positive psychology is merely a focus on maintaining and improving emotional health instead of repairing. Also, it is not a cheesy Tony Robbins motivational "think only happy thoughts" school of thought. It is a scientifically based, fact driven understanding of the human psyche.

History of Positive Psychology

Positive psychology originated in 1998 when Martin Seligman decided that instead of studying what was wrong with people, he wanted to focus on what was right with them. He wanted to find a way to not only treat mental illness, but "to make normal life more fulfilling." This concept is not new. It does, however, group all of these ideas into a specific title and field of study.

Growth of Positive Psychology

There are many practical applications of positive psychology and more specifically, happiness. Because happiness is one of mankind's primary motivating factors, it is extremely useful in leadership, coaching, education, and therapy. Knowledge of positive psychology and the drivers of happiness can help people in these leadership positions as they seek to understand and motivate those around them.

Many people in today’s world are searching for happiness. As a result, the study of it has quickly become one of the more popular topics in modern psychology and millions of dollars have been dedicated to the research of the neurological causes of this emotion.

Since the subject of positive psychology is newer, degrees programs in the subject are not widely available. Recently the University of Pennsylvania introduced the first Masters of Applied Positive Psychology degree in 2010. Since then, Claremont Graduate University has also added a positive psychology degree. To fulfill the growing demand for the study and research of positive psychology, many other prestigious schools across the country are hiring faculty specializing in positive psychology.

Below you will find a list of schools that have faculty members who have expressed significant interest in the research or study of positive psychology. A list complete with faculty member’s website and email addresses can be found on

Group 1- These are schools with two or more faculty that have expressed significant interest in positive psychology.

  • Autonoma University of Madrid
  • Boston College
  • Chilean Institute of Positive Psychology
  • Claremont Graduate University
  • Colorado State University
  • Cornell University
  • Emory University
  • George Mason University
  • Harvard University
  • Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Politicas/School of Social and Political Sciences, Technical University Of LisbonInstituto Superior de Cincias Sociais e Politicasd Political Sciences,Technical University Of Lisbon
  • Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP)
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Northern Kentucky University
  • Stanford University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of British Columbia
  • University at Buffalo
  • University of California (Berkeley, San Francisco, San Diego)
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Otago, New Zealand
  • University of Pennsylvania University of Rochester
  • University of Texas
  • University of Utah
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale University

Group 2- The following universities have one faculty member that has expressed significant interest in Positive Psychology.

  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Chapman University
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Clark University
  • Columbia University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Florida State University
  • Furman University
  • George Washington University
  • Hendrix College
  • Hope College
  • Jefferson College of Health Sciences
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kent State
  • Lehigh University
  • McGill University
  • Michigan State University
  • Monash University (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • New School for Social Research
  • New York University
  • Norfolk State University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Northwestern University
  • Open Polytechnic of New Zealand
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix
  • Princeton University
  • Ringling College of Art and Design
  • Rollins College
  • Suffolk University
  • Syracuse University
  • United States Military Academy
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of Colorado at Boulder
  • University of Connecticut
  • University College Cork (Ireland)
  • University of Florida
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Western Ontario
  • Vassar College
  • Wake Forest University
  • Zurich University

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