2013/2014, Semester 1
Arts & Social Sciences (Psychology)
Modular Credits: 5
Positive Psychology is the study of how people thrive despite external obstacles and their own human frailties. The aim of this course is to address questions such as: What are the positive psychological mind-states and action sequences that promote flourishing lives, and how can we live life well? What are the behaviours and cognitions that undermine and promote wellbeing? This course will introduce students to the scientific research and issues in positive psychology, and will explore the meaning and implications of positive psychology towards a global understanding of wellbeing.
Students will be expected to apply some theories to their own lives, to reflect on them as part of the coursework, and to exercise their critical thinking abilities to form their own personal views on what constitutes a “good life.” By the end of the course, students should be able to understand and explain the basic theories in positive psychology, and to critically defend (or oppose) the cognitions and behaviours that serve to enhance or undermine optimal human growth.
Completed 80 MCs of which student must have passed PL1101E, PL2131, PL2132 and 4 out of the 5 core modules (PL3232 - PL3236), in which one must be PL3235, with a minimum CAP of 3.5 or be on the Honours track.
16 Aug (Week 1): Introduction and Overview of Positive Psychology
23 Aug (Week 2): Wellbeing and SWB
30 Aug (Week 3): Money / Hedonics
6 Sep (Week 4): Gratitude, Altruism, Positive Emotions
13 Sep (Week 5): Positive Relationships
20 Sep (Week 6): Seminar Presentations and Group Work
27 Sep: One-week recess (No class)
4 Oct (Week 7): Culture & Self-Esteem
11 Oct (Week 8): Optimism
18 Oct (Week 9): Resilience, Mindfulness, Meditation
25 Oct (Week 10): Counter-Intuitive Findings
1 Nov (Week 11): Research Presentations
8 Nov (Week 12): Research Presentations
15 Nov (Week 13): Guest Speaker TBA
23 Nov: Final Exam
Positive Psychology Intro and Overview
Gable, S. L. & Haidt, J. (2005).
What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology?
Review of General Psychology
, 9, 103-110.
Froh, J. J. (2004, May/June). The history of positive psychology: Truth be told.
Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary.
American Psychologist, 56
Peterson & Park (2004). Classification and measurement of character strengths: Implications for practice. In P.A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.),
Positive Psychology in Practice
(pp. 433-446). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Wellbeing and SWB
Easterlin, R. A. (2002). Explaining happiness.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100
Lucas, R.E. (2007). Adaptation and the set-point model of SWB: Does happiness change after major life events?
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16
(2), 75 – 79.
Keyes, C. L. M., Shmotkin, D., & Ryff, C. D. (2002). Optimizing wellbeing: The empirical encounter of two traditions.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82
Sheldon & Lyubomirsky (2007). Is it possible to become happier? And if so, how?
Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1
Money / Hedonics
Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36
Csikzentmihalyi, M. (1999). If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy?
American Psychologist, 54
Nicolao, L., Irwin, J. R., & Goodman, J. K. (2009). Happiness for sale: Do experiential purchases make consumers happier than material purchases?
Journal of Consumer Research, 36
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To do or to have? That is the question.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85
Gratitude, Altruism, Positive Emotions
Bartlett, M. Y., & DeSteno, D. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: Helping when it costs you.
Psychological Science, 17
Emmons, R. A. (2004). The psychology of gratitude: An introduction. In R. A. Emmons & M. E. McCullough (Eds.),
The Psychology of Gratitude
(pp. 3 – 18). NY: Oxford University Press.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2003). The value of positive emotions.
American Scientist, 91
Post, S. (2009, July-August). It’s good to be good: Science says it’s so.
Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C. & Strachman, A. (2006). Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right? Supportive Responses to Positive Event Disclosures.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, 91, 904-917.
Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (1994). What Makes Marriages Work.
(2), pp. 38-43, 68.
Myers, D. G. (1999). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwartz (eds.),
Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology
(pp. 374-391). NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Haidt, J., Seder, P., & Kesebir, S. (2008). Hive psychology, happiness, and public policy.
Journal of Legal Studies, 37
Baumgardner, S. R., & Crothers, M. K. (2010). Self-esteem. In
(pp. 186-193). New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Branden, N. (1997). What Self-Esteem Is and Is Not. Excerpt from
The Art of Living Consciously
. Simon and Schuster.
Uchida, Y., Norasakkunkit, V., & Kitayama, S. (2004). Cultural constructions of happiness: Theory and empirical evidence.
Journal of Happiness Studies, 5
Wierzbicka, A. (2004). ‘Happiness’ in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective.
Peterson, C. (2000). The future of optimism.
American Psychologist, 55
Seligman, M. E. P. (1990).
NY: Vintage Books. Ch. 12 (pp. 207-234)
Peterson, C., Seligman, M. E. P., Yurko, K. H., Martin, L. R., & Friedman, H. S. (1998). Catastrophizing and untimely death.
Psychological Science, 9
Resilience, Mindfulness, Meditation
Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review.
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10
Davidson, R. J., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation.
Psychosomatic Medicine, 65
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994).
Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life
. (pp. 33-57; 103-105; and 18-21). NY: Hyperion.
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). A clinical approach to posttraumatic growth. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.),
Positive psychology in practice
(pp. 405-419). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updegraff, J. A., & Taylor, S. E. (2000). From vulnerability to growth: Positive and neative effects of stressful life events. In J. H. Harvey & E. Miller (Eds.),
Loss and Trauma: General and Close Relationship Perspectives
(pp. 3-28). Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.
Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2005). Affective forecasting: Knowing what to want.
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14
Kermer, D. A., Driver-Linn, E., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2006). Loss aversion is an affective forecasting error.
Psychological Science, 17
Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2007). Prospection: Experiencing the future.
(7 Sep 2007), 1351-1354.
Schwartz et al., (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83
*I reserve the right to modify the schedule and readings during the semester as the course progresses and events dictate. Any changes made will be communicated via IVLE and in class.
The purpose of the essays is for you to critically analyze and express what you think of the reading(s). Each essay should be a thoughtful reflection and genuine engagement with one or more of the week’s required readings.
Do not summarize any of the articles
. The essay should be a critical analysis, but this does not necessarily mean you simply criticize the reading. Rather you should use the materials that you have learned in class to evaluate the concepts and theories in the readings, and demonstrate your understanding by explaining how it applies (can apply) in your life.
Introduce and develop one original argument that is not found in the course readings. An argument should be your own original point/theory/belief that you are presenting and defending in your essay (i.e., your own idea; don't summarize arguments the research provides, although you can use the research to support your own argument). Then support your argument with evidence (i.e., your observations, illustrations/examples, and research—how it applies/does not apply). These essays should be written after you’ve done the readings and the homework activities for the week so you have a chance to reflect before writing.
Use Times New Roman 12-point font with standard 1-inch margins on A4 paper, double-spaced. Submit in 2 forms: (1) hardcopy; and (2) as a
Microsoft Word document
uploaded to IVLE workbin.
Length of essay: 1½ - 2 pages (
limit). Do not exceed page limit: practice substantive brevity.
Put your name, Student ID number, date, and essay number at the top of the first page.
Refer to an article using the author’s name with date—for example, “According to Gable et al. (2006), …” (If more than two authors, use “et al.,”)
Essay deadline and submission:
Write a total of three essays.
Submit each essay in two formats
to IVLE Workbin by
2pm on the Friday
of class. Name your softcopy essay according to this format: "Surname_FirstName_Essay_#." For example, if your name is "Fann Wong" and you're submitting Essay #3, then submit your essay as "Wong_Fann_Essay_3."
(2) turn in
3pm of Fri class
Double-side your hardcopy submission, please!
(Note: Good writing ability is very helpful in this course since writing will make up 30% of your course grade, in the form of essays and thought questions. An interest in the course material is essential as well; otherwise, the writing assisnments will be painful to do.)
Create a thought-provoking or controversial question that the reading(s) raised for you, or a question you think would provide good material for discussion. Practice brevity: keep your thought questions short! Maximum 50-word limit.
A good question demonstrates an understanding of course material applied to a realm that you may not fully understand (yet).
A fair (but not great) question might be one that has been answered by course material already, but still shows some thought.
A poor reflection question shows no original thinking, is superficial, or paraphrases an existing reflection question that has appeared in the course readings or has already been raised in class.
Thought question submission:
There will be ten thought questions (TQs) to submit (one per week, except for the last 2 weeks of class). Submit your TQ for that week's reading to IVLE “Survey.”
During class period, there will be a series of unannounced assignments. These assignments will be completed in class only. Examples of in-class assignments are small group activities, short papers, pop quizzes. NO make-ups if you are absent for an in-class assignment.
Each group of students will do a presentation on a course topic-- either from (1) the previous week or for (2) the current week's topic. (Presentations should be 15 minutes. Do not exceed 20-minute time limit.) You’re not required to do any extra research outside of what's presented in the course. The presentation is based on readings and class material. Some ideas for your seminar presentation: skit, discussion, game, etc. If you’re showing a film, presenting a skit, or playing a game, make sure to share with us your point—your rationale on why/how this relates back to the topic matter. Try not to present entirely in the traditional lecture style. (That’s my job!)
(1) Previous week's topic: How and what you present (within the topic) is up to you.
(2) Current week's topic: Focus on 2 or 3 of the articles from that week's reading list.
Each student will work in the same group of five students on a topic in the field of positive psychology. This project is meant to be a fun learning experience but academic standards will still be upheld. You must do some research-- that is, consult academic resources (e.g., journal articles, book chapters) outside of class material. Spend a little time choosing a topic that interests you, and make sure the topic relates back to positive psychology. (Suggestions are listed below but feel free to come up with your own topic.) For example, if your topic is motivation, don't simply give a general social psychology presentation on motivation; instead, make sure you demonstrate how your presentation on motivation fits into the framework of positive psychology.
Try to make your presentation interactive and fun. Keep in mind that some activities take more time than you think, so allocate enough time for them. You will present your findings in class, including some prescriptive tips for the class regarding how to increase wellbeing based on your research. Visual aids (PowerPoint slides, video clips, posters, handouts, etc.) are recommended.
Group presentations should be about 25 minutes and will be held during the last weeks of class.
Do not exceed 30-minute time limit
Attendance will be taken during each class on research presentation dates.
Absence or tardiness may result in point deductions off your final grade.
Each member of a group should assess the contributions of all group members. If someone in your group is not completing their share of work, showing up for group meetings, or is completely uninvolved in accomplishing the group’s goal, then your evaluation can reflect this. I will take these evaluations into account when assigning final individual grades for the group presentation.
. On the day of your presentation, please submit the following in hardcopy:
Group member contributions (one per student).
Each student should hand in a separate detailed account listing the activities each of the group members contributed towards the presentation.
Reference list (one per group)
. Each group may submit a joint reference list of resources used (books, journal articles, etc.). Please use APA format. Cite at least 6 sources that can be found using the PSYCINFO electronic database.
PowerPoint slides (one per group)
(with graphics deleted is fine).
Topic Suggestions for Research Presentations
Humor and laughter
Spirituality / Religion
Heroism and bravery
Hobbies / leisure activities
Positive psychology in the media (movies, tv, books, etc.)
Positive psychology at work
Positive youth development
Positive psychology from an evolutionary perspective
Goals and motivation
Flourishing and languishing
In-class closed-book final exam on 23 Nov. The exam will include essay, short-answer, and multiple-choice questions.
About this course:
Don't be fooled by the seemingly-simple subject matter of this course: This is a labor-intensive course. There is a considerable amount of reading, writing, presenting, and other work to be done on a weekly basis—you need to keep up.
The seminars supplement the readings. As such, you can expect my presentations to cover ideas that are not necessarily covered in the readings. You are expected to know the material covered in all aspects of the course: readings, lectures, films, assignments, presentations, and discussions.
Your success in this course depends on attending class, participating in class, taking thorough notes, writing thought-provoking essays and questions, and presenting well-researched, lucid, organized presentations.
Students are strongly encouraged to complete the assigned readings
coming to class, as we will be discussing concepts in class.
A skeleton version of my PowerPoint slides for each topic will be available at noon on the day of class. You can access the slides through IVLE. You will need an NUS UserID and password, as well as access to PowerPoint.
Students are responsible for checking their email account and IVLE frequently and consistently to remain current with University communications. They are expected to monitor and manage their email storage quota to insure that their mailboxes are not saturated and are able to receive new messages.
: Although attendance is not taken during the semester (with the exception of research presentation days), your attendance is expected for at least 3 reasons. (1) Missing class will put you at a serious disadvantage for the exams since some of the course material you will be tested on is not found in the readings. (2) You may not make up missed in-class assignments if you are absent. (3) You’ll miss out on the educational experience and we’ll miss out on your contribution to the class.
Please turn off handphones, and do everything in your power to show up for class on time. Ringing phones, latecomers, and other distractions make the learning (and teaching) process difficult for those around you.
Workload Components : A-B-C-D-E
A: no. of lecture hours per week
B: no. of tutorial hours per week
C: no. of lab hours per week
D: no. of hours for projects, assignments, fieldwork etc per week
E: no. of hours for preparatory work by a student per week