Positive Psychology

Seminar in Positive Psychology
Psych. 367
Spring 2008

Randy Larsen Glenn Detrick
Room 206 Psychology Bldg. Whispers Lounge
rlarsen@artsci.wustl.edu Glenn@webebi.com
Office Hours: Wed. 3-4:00, & by appt. Tu/Th 2:00-2:30, & by appt.

Format of Course: This course will be conducted as a seminar. We will avoid lecturing and will instead encourage discussion. After the first full week in most weeks we will fall into a routine where the Tuesday class is devoted to discussing the readings and the Thursday class is devoted to discussing the exercise and the papers you wrote. This may vary in some cases, as in week four on the topic of creativity and creative problem solving.

Class Participation: This is essential for the seminar format to work. Do the readings, think about what you read, and come to class ready to discuss the issues and concepts. Nearly 20% of your grade will be based on class participation.

Homework: is assigned for every week of the semester. This forms the experiential portion of the course, where there are assignments designed to give you some experience with the various themes of the course. Homework is due typically at the end of our Tuesday class meeting, i.e., bring it to class and hand it in at the end of the class (keep a copy for yourself to use in the Thursday class meeting). These assignments are relatively short and informal, with most taking no more than one to three pages to complete.

Major Paper: A major paper will allow you to chose some specific topic in Positive Psychology and gain more knowledge by writing a 10-15 page paper on that topic. Topics must be approved in advance by one of the Instructors. The paper is due on April 15.

Final Exam: A take home final exam will be handed out at the end of the last class session, April 24. You will have 24 hours to complete the ten questions on the exam. (If you would like to get the exam on a later date because of other academic commitments, you may do so.) The exam will be open book, open note and will be designed as a personal retrospective on what you will have gained from the course.

Grading: will be based on each of the above elements of the course, i.e., doing the readings, participating in class, homework (thoughtful and on time), a major paper and a final exam. Attendance is required (and is essential for the class to work). In addition to assignment grades, we will be pleased to provide personal feedback on how you are doing in the course.

Possible Points: Total of 510 points as follows.

Homework: 14 weeks X 15 points each: 210 (Any assignment not turned in will yield a negative 15 points, rather than zero.)

Participation: 100

Major Paper: 100

Final Exam: 100

SCHEDULE FOR CLASS MEETINGS –Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2:30-4:00
PROFESSORS: Randy Larsen and Glenn Detrick

This course will be conducted as a seminar, which means that we will all participate in teaching and learning through discussions, exercises, and reports to the class. This teaching format works well only when everyone does the reading, attends each class, and actively participates. Specific requirements for the homework assignments will be discussed in detail in class.

Jan 15 GD & RL What is Positive Psychology? Orientation to the Course
Course Expectations and assessments

Jan 17 GD Feedback/Self Discovery HW 1: Personal Goals

Jan 22 GD Perspective and Choice Frankl: “Man’s Search for Meaning” HW 2: Feedback Paper
Jan 24 GD “Mountain Man & the Surgeon”

Jan 29 RL Happiness Lyubomirsky:“The How of Happiness” HW 3: Happiness description
Ch 1 & 2 (handout)
Jan 31 RL Biswas-Diener “Material Wealth”

Feb 5 GD Creativity & Creative Problem Solving HW 4: Journal #1
Feb 7 GD

Feb. 12 RL Optimism & Positive Thinking Seligman: “Learning to be helpless” HW 5: Helplessness and Optimism
Feb 14 RL and “Explaining misfortune”

Feb 19 GD Developing Effective Self- McWilliams Parts I & II HW 6: Quotes Paper
Feb 21 GD Management Strategies

Feb 26 RL Emotional Intelligence Goleman: “Emotional Intelligence” HW 7: Emotional Intelligence exercise
Feb 28 RL (skim whole book)

Mar 4 GD Tools & Master Teachers McWilliams Parts III & IV HW 8: Journal #2
Mar 6 GD

Mar 11 & 13 ************************************ SPRING BREAK *****************************************

Mar 18 RL Friendship Goleman: “Emotional Intelligence” Ch 9 HW 9: Friendship exercise
Mar 20 RL Aristotle; pp. 248-269 (Handout)

Mar 25 GD Compassion Dalai Lama: “The Power of Compassion” HW 10: Journal #3
Mar 27 GD (Handout)

April 1 RL Love & Relationships Gottman: “Seven Principles” Chaps 1-5, 8, 9 HW 11: Love exercise
April 3 RL Skim Chaps 3-11 to prepare Homework

April 8 GD Listening & Interviewing McWilliams Part V HW 12: Personal Vision Statement
April 10 GD

April 15 RL Work Satisfaction Csikszentmihalyi: “Finding Flow” HW 13: Flow exercise
April 17 RL Chaps 1-5, 8, 9

April 22 GD&RL Travel HW 14:Travel itinerary

April 24 GD&RL Summary/Retrospective Take Home Final Exam
Final Exam is handed out Given Out. 24 Hrs to
on April 24 or any 24-hr period after Complete
this date, by arrangement

Readings for Psychology 367
Spring Term, 2008

Instructors: Randy Larsen and Glenn Detrick


Frankl, Viktor (2006, originally published in 1946). Man’s Search for Meaning.
Beacon Press.
ISBN-10: 080701429X
ISBN-13: 978-0807014295

Goleman, Daniel P. (1997). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.
Bantam Books.
ISBN: 0553375067

Gottman, John M. (2000). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Three Rivers Press.
ISBN-10: 0609805797
ISBN-13: 978-0609805794

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1998). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.
Basic Books.
ISBN: 0465024114

McWilliams, Peter (1991). Life 101.
Mary Books/Prelude Press
ISBN: 0-931580-78-1

Dalai Lama. (1995). The Power of Compassion (To be handed out in class)


There will also be several items that we will provide via .pdf files or hard copies, during the course.

Psychology 367 – Positive Psychology

Spring, 2008


Homework is assigned for every week of the semester. Homework is due at the end of our Tuesday class meetings, i.e., bring it to class and hand it in at the end of the class (keep a copy for yourself to use in the Thursday class meeting). These assignments are short and informal, with most taking no more than one to three pages to complete. Approach them creatively and they may actually be fun!

In general, for each assignment never write more than three pages and never write less than one full page.

1. DUE Jan 17: Establish 3-5 personal growth objectives indicating things you would like to do/achieve over the course of this semester. Do not pick things you consider “easy” in order to be able to report “success” by the end of the term. Choose things that are important to you and that would enhance your life. Consider such things as gaining skills/knowledge in a specific area, improving a relationship with ‘X’ person or people, improving your health and/or life style in various ways, sorting out plans for post-graduation, breaking bad habits, etc. Explain briefly why these goals are important to you.

After introducing yourself to a small group in class, be prepare to discuss your goals. If as a result of your discussions you would like to modify any of your goals, you may do so by indicating changes in your first journal (see Feb 5).

2. DUE Jan 22: Ask three people who know you well for Candid Feedback about:
a. How good a listener you are
b. How empathic you are
c. How caring you are
d. How well you deal with stress
e. How positive/happy you are
f. Any advice they would like to give you that they think might be useful
Report results, including anything you heard that was a surprise. If you wish to modify your objectives based on anything you learned, you may do so in your first journal (See Feb 5).

3. DUE JAN 29 – Happiness Description: Think of the happiest person you know. Describe this person and write about what it is that makes you think they are so happy. What are some of their characteristics or behaviors that lead you to conclude they are happy? How do you think they became so happy? How do they stay happy? Be specific and provide details.

4. DUE Feb 5, March 4 and March 25, Journals 1 – 3: Report diligently:
a. What of interest or importance has happened in your life since the previous journal
b. How you are doing (or not doing) on each of the objectives you have set for yourself
c. What ideas from the readings and class discussion you are attempting to utilize
Write these journals as if you were writing to yourself so you can look back on your experience at the end of the term and remember salient elements, happenings, relationships, frustrations, successes, etc. Reflect on how you might have done things differently to achieve a more positive outcome if there are situations that turned out not as you would have wanted them to. One of the questions on the final exam will ask for further update since March 25.

5. DUE Feb. 12 – Helplessness and Optimism – Have you or someone you know ever been subjected to the conditions that encourage helplessness? Describe the specific situation that promoted helplessness in this situation. Now describe how an optimistic cognitive style could counteract those forces that promoted helplessness. Be specific.

6. DUE February 19: Quotes Paper
In three full pages (it may run over to a fourth, if you are in the middle of an idea), tell us about quote(s) that you find interesting, useful, important, fun or inspiring. There are many quotes in the “Life 101” text, but you are not limited by this or any other material. You may choose one quote and write three pages or you may pick several/many quotes and write a sentence or a paragraph or whatever, to total three pages. The objective of this assignment is to get you thinking reflectively and introspectively about ideas that have or could have a positive impact on you.

7. DUE February 26 – Emotional Intelligence Exercise – PART I: Briefly describe someone you know (names deleted) who is high on emotional intelligence but perhaps low or just average on cognitive IQ? Now try to think of and describe someone just the opposite, someone who is high on cognitive IQ (smart) but who lacks emotional intelligence. In describing these two persons, briefly give evidence of their standing (high or low) on the two forms of intelligence (emotional and cognitive).
PART II: Imagine you have a friend, someone you really care about, who is low on emotional intelligence. How could you help him or her develop more emotional intelligence? Can you think of some advice, some exercises, or a program to develop EI?

8. DUE March 4 – Journal # 2 (See Assignment 4 above)

9. DUE March 18 – Consider your friendships, perhaps even your best friend. Analyze this relationship in terms of the readings this week, e.g., how does your real friendship live up to the ideals of friendship discussed in the readings.

10. DUE March 25 – Journal #3 (See Assignment 4 above)

11. DUE APRIL 1 (April fools day! Who said only fools fall in love?). After doing this week’s readings, formulate a few (say 3 or 4) basic principles for having a successful and satisfying intimate and loving relationship. Each principle should be worded in terms of advice to follow for developing and maintaining a satisfying long-term relationship. In other words, what is it that people in satisfying relationships do (or don’t do) that sets them apart from those people who fail or are miserable in their relationships? Be specific. Give examples where appropriate.

12. Due April 8 Personal Vision Statement: As you look out to the future, how do you want to shape yourself and your life? What kinds of things do you want to do/accomplish? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of relationships do you want to have? What kind of contribution do you want to make to this world? What do you want your priorities to be? Think both short term (next 5 years) and long term (your whole life). Be introspective and make certain that this vision is by and for YOU.

13. DUE April 15 (Tax day!! Appropriate for a class on work). Flow – Write a reaction paper to this week’s readings, focusing on the concept of flow and it’s implications for being satisfied with work. Have you ever experienced flow? If so, describe the experience. Or describe someone you think experiences flow in their work or recreation.

14. DUE April 22: Travel – Write an itinerary for a trip of at least 10 days (but not more than a month) you would most like to take; use your imagination, it can be anywhere in the world. Include a description and explanation of why you would want to go there and what you expect to find and do while there.

Psych 367 Positive Psychology
Major Paper Assignment
Spring, 2008

1. Find a topic related to Positive Psychology (see or e-mail one of us if you have questions, doubts, need advice, etc). Any topic covered in the course would do, e.g., happiness, life satisfaction, optimism, emotional intelligence, friendship, intimacy, sense of community, work satisfaction, creativity, genius, etc. You are not limited to these topics, but the topic you choose must be related to some positive aspect of human nature, and you must have your topic approved by one of the instructors.

2. Locate three articles (or book chapters or books) on the topic that report empirical research. These sources must report actual research, where data were gathered on real people to address the research question. The best way to locate articles is PsychINFO in the library databases. Go to: http://library.wustl.edu/databases/p.html click on PsychINFO, and enter your topic as a keyword in the search fields.

3. Write the paper: (double-spaced, should be between 10-15 pages)

Introduction – What is your topic, why did you choose it? What were some of your assumptions about this topic going into the literature search? Why do you think this is an interesting topic? (2 to 4 pages)

Article 1:
• Give complete reference (author, year, title, journal, volume, page numbers)
• Summarize:
a. Why was the study done, what was the rationale or purpose?
b. What were the main hypotheses or research questions?
c. How were the main variables measured, e.g., questionnaire, interview,…?
d. What were the main findings/conclusions?

Repeat the above for Articles 2 & 3 (2 pages or so for each article summary)

Summary: (2-4 pages for your personal summary on your topic).
• What did you learn about the topic?
• Were the research studies consistent with your prior thinking? Consistent with what you learned about in the course?
• How does your topic fit into the general field of positive psychology?
• Some general reflections on the topic you have chosen, e.g., personal relevance, experience with the topic, etc.