07 Feb Positive psychology takes happiness to societies, not just individuals
I have been sympathetic to some criticisms of positive psychology as being too “self”-centered – focusing on how individuals can make themselves happier or otherwise improve their own lives. It can appear that positive psychology is a continuation of a “me-me-me” egocentric, self-indulgent culture. There may well be those who are consuming information from this new discipline in that spirit – to feed their ego. I got into this whole endeavor, though, to improve the world and there is reason to be hopeful.
Albert Bandura (1969; 1986) made a foundational contribution to psychology in explicating the phenomenon of social learning. We learn so much by observing others around us and we do much of this automatically. As I have read findings such as the recent study by Fowler and Christakis (2008) on the spread of happiness in social networks, or Haidt’s (2006) research on the phenomenon of “elevation,” I have wondered to what degree social learning is at work.