Martin Seligman

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Martin Seligman
Flickr - The U.S. Army - Comprehensive Soldiers Fitness (1)cropped.jpg
Born (1942-08-12) August 12, 1942 (age 76)
Albany, New York
Other names Marty
Fields Psychology
Institutions University of Pennsylvania (Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology)
Alma mater Princeton University (A.B.)
University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.)
Known for Positive psychology
Learned helplessness

Martin E. P. "Marty" Seligman (born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books. Since the late 90's, Seligman has been an avid promoter within the scientific community for the field of positive psychology.[1] His theory of learned helplessness is popular among scientific and clinical psychologists.[2] A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Seligman as the 31st most cited psychologist of the 20th century.[3]

Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. He is the director of the university's Positive Psychology Center.[1] Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association for 1998.[4] He is the founding editor-in-chief of Prevention and Treatment (the APA electronic journal) and is on the board of advisers of Parents magazine.

Seligman has written about positive psychology topics in books such as The Optimistic Child, Child's Play, Learned Optimism, and Authentic Happiness. His most recent book, Flourish, was published in 2011.

Early life and education

Seligman was born in Albany, New York. He was educated at a public school and at The Albany Academy. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Princeton University in 1964, graduating Summa Cum Laude. During his senior year, Seligman had to choose between three offers from various universities. They included a scholarship to study analytic philosophy at Oxford University, animal experimental psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and finally an offer to join Penn's bridge team. Seligman chose to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study psychology.[5] He earned his Ph.D. in psychology at University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Learned helplessness

Seligman's foundational experiments and theory of "learned helplessness" began at University of Pennsylvania in 1967, as an extension of his interest in depression. Quite by accident, Seligman and colleagues discovered that the conditioning of dogs led to outcomes that were opposite to the predictions of B.F. Skinner's behaviorism, then a leading psychological theory.[6]

Seligman developed the theory further, finding learned helplessness to be a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to act or behave helplessly in a particular situation — usually after experiencing some inability to avoid an adverse situation — even when it actually has the power to change its unpleasant or even harmful circumstance. Seligman saw a similarity with severely depressed patients, and argued that clinical depression and related mental illnesses result in part from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[7] In later years, alongside Abramson, Seligman reformulated his theory of learned helplessness to include attributional style.[8]

According to author Jane Mayer,[9] Seligman gave a talk at the Navy SERE school in San Diego in 2002, which he said was a three-hour talk on helping US soldiers to resist torture, based on his understanding of learned helplessness.

Positive psychology

Seligman worked with Christopher Peterson to create what they describe as a 'positive' counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While the DSM focuses on what can go wrong, Character Strengths and Virtues is designed to look at what can go right. In their research they looked across cultures and across millennia to attempt to distill a manageable list of virtues that have been highly valued from ancient China and India, through Greece and Rome, to contemporary Western cultures. Their list includes six character strengths: wisdom/knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each of these has three to five sub-entries; for instance, temperance includes forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation.[10] The authors do not believe that there is a hierarchy for the six virtues; no one is more fundamental than or a precursor to the others.

In July 2011, Seligman encouraged British Prime Minister David Cameron to look into well-being as well as financial wealth in ways of assessing the prosperity of a nation. On July 6, 2011, Seligman appeared on Newsnight and was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about his ideas and his interest in the concept of well-being.

PERMA

In his latest book, Flourish, Seligman articulated an account of how he measures well-being, and titled this work, "Well-Being Theory".[11] He concludes that there are five elements to "well-being", which fall under the mnemonic PERMA:[11]

  • Positive emotion — Can only be assessed subjectively
  • Engagement — Like positive emotion, can only be measured through subjective means. It is presence of a flow state
  • Relationships — The presence of friends, family, intimacy, or social connection
  • Meaning — Belonging to and serving something bigger than one's self
  • Achievement — Accomplishment that is pursued even when it brings no positive emotion, no meaning, and nothing in the way of positive relationships.

From Martin Seligmans book:

"Each element of well-being must itself have three properties to count as an element:

  1. It contributes to well-being.
  2. Many people pursue it for its own sake, not merely to get any of the other elements.
  3. It is defined and measured independently of the other elements."

These theories have not been empirically validated.

MAPP program

The Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania was established under the leadership of Seligman as the first educational initiative of the Positive Psychology Center in 2003.[12]

Personal life

He plays bridge, and finished second in one of the three major North American pair championships, the Blue Ribbon Pairs (1998), and has won over 50 regional championships.[13]

He has seven children, four grandchildren, and two dogs. Seligman and his second wife, Mandy, live in a house that was once occupied by Eugene Ormandy. They have home-schooled five of their seven children, and they are still currently home-schooling one. [14]

Seligman was inspired by the work of the psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania in refining his own cognitive techniques and exercises.[15]

Publications

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  2. Bower, Gordon H. (1981). The psychology of learning and motivation: advances in research and theory. Academic Press, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 30. ISBN 9780125433150.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> "The most popular theoretical interpretation of the learned helplessness phenomenon to date is that of Seligman (1975) and Maier and Seligman (1976)."
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. List of APA Presidents
  5. http://journals1.scholarsportal.info.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/tmp/16891448582641798321.pdf[dead link]
  6. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).; Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  7. Seligman, M.E.P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2328-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. Horton, Scott (14 July 2008). "Six Questions for Jane Mayer, Author of The Dark Side". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-04. Seligman said his talk was focused on how to help U.S. soldiers resist torture — not on how to breakdown resistance in detainees. ... Mitchell has denied that these theories guided his and the CIA's use<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  11. 11.0 11.1 Seligman, Martin (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press. pp. 16–20. ISBN 9781439190760.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "MAPP program". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 10 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  14. Burling, Stacey (30 May 2010). "The power of a positive thinker". philly.com. The Inquirer - Interstate General Media. Retrieved 1 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Hirtz, Rob (January 1999). "Martin Seligman's Journey: from Learned Helplessness to Learned Happiness". The Pennsylvania Gazette. The University of Pennsylvania.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Educational offices
Preceded by
Norman Abeles
107th President of the American Psychological Association
1998-99
Succeeded by
Richard Suinn