discussion board


Positive Social psychology: Social Factors That Help Create a Good Life

This is the Third and final Audio PowerPoint Lecture in Soc 3332 – Understanding Social Behavior

By Dr. Byron K. Hargrove

Let’s begin with a quote about Optimism.

It turns out that the wholehearted adoption of an exclusively optimistic outlook may not be what promotes your well-being and the good life.

(pp. 468, Gruman et al, 2017)

In this lecture we will review the main e-text chapter points about the good life through the lens of positive social psychology and provide additional resources to consider on Positive Psychology Practical Interventions (Grenville-Cleave, 2012).

The key points to remember in your e-text for this week are as follows:

#1. Positive psychology is the science of understanding and promoting well-being and optimal human functioning.

Positive Psychology and social psychology are closely connected especially when it comes to research on optimism and pessimism.

Positive social psychology is the study of how social factors can help promote a good life.

#2. Martin Seligman, one of the Founding Fathers of Positive Psychology, described his new Theory of Well-Being or PERMA model in his book called flourishing (2012).

What Exactly is the PERMA Model of Well-Being?

#3. According to Seligman, The Positivity Psychology Model of Well-Being is represented by the five elements of PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

#4. Studies have shown that people who self-report high well-being frequently experience Positive Emotions, report reaching many flow moments in their work or leisure activities, maintain positive relationships, pursue meaningful activities with a sense of direction in life, and report achieving various kinds of success, mastery, or achievements in life (Grenville-Cleave, 2012)

Another key point in your e-text were the roles of outcome expectancies and Explanatory Styles in well-being.

#5. According to your E-text, Differences in outcome expectancies are key when it comes to understanding optimism and pessimism. Outcome expectancies also lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.

#6. People with a tendency to adopt Optimistic explanatory styles make internal, stable, and global attributions to explain the good things in their lives, but make external, unstable, and specific attributions to explain bad things in their lives.

What is an optimistic frame of mind?

In order to reach an optimistic frame of mind, ask yourself the following questions when attributing an event in life:

What is the evidence for your negative event? What counterevidence can you think of?

Brainstorm as many alternative optimistic explanations for this event

Identify the worst thing AND the most likely thing that might happen.

Which explanations are the most useful for maintaining good well-being?

Make an action plan focused on what you can improve in the situation. (pp. 140-141, Grenville-Cleave, 2012)


Imagine two candidates – Olivia and Pete - Didn’t get a call back after interviewing twice for a Job they really wanted. How would They Explain this Negative Event? Is it personal? Is it permanent? Is it pervasive?

Olivia – The Optimist, says “It’s not my fault I was late for the interview and traffic was terrible” (not personal); “It was one-off and I’ll be fine at the next interview.” (things will change); “The other candidates were stronger than me.” (specific reason) (pp. 138, Grenville-Cleave, 2012)

Pete – The Pessimist, says “I was stupid to take the car, I should have taken the train” (very personal) “I’m never going to get a job.” (Permanent way of the world) “I’m a rubbish candidate and I’d be a rubbish employee!” (Global reasoning about self) (pp. 138, Grenville-Cleave, 2012).

NOW Imagine olivia & pete got job offers. How would each one Explain this Positive Event? (Remember personal, permanent, & pervasive)

Olivia – The Optimist, says

“I answered those questions brilliantly” (Very personal);

“I got the job because I am always well-prepared for interviews.” (Permanent way I do things);

“I’m a very talented person.” (global reason)

Pete – The Pessimist, says

“They asked me the right questions in the interview”(not personal);

“I was just lucky on the day.” (not permanent);

“I know the right things to say in interviews.” (non-pervasive) (pp. 139, Grenville-Cleave, 2012).

The Point: Pessimists need to have attribution retraining to replace with more optimistic explanatory style.

Defensive pessimists however, are better off continuing to expect the worst because this helps them manage their anxiety.

Grenville-Cleave (2012) also summarizes the benefits of optimism based on positive psychological research.

optimism is associated with

less anxiety

Less depression

Less distress

more effective coping

higher life satisfaction

stronger immune systems

better recovery from surgery

an ability to face warning signs of illness head on

and active problem-solving.

Now Consider This! 5 Barriers to Well-Being and useful strategies are as follows:

In order to combat The Negativity Bias (i.e., when more weight is given to negative events and emotions rather than positive events and emotions), one needs to make a conscious effort to focus on the positive events and experiences in one’s life (e.g., complete the Three Good Things exercise)

POINT: To maintain well-being, Happy people keep focused on and remember the positive experiences.

In order to combat Duration Neglect (i.e., when good things never last long), it is important to focus on the peak intensity of the emotion and ending the event on a positive note.

Point: To maintain well-being, Happy people remember the peak and savor the good final moments. (Grenville-Cleave, 2012).

What else do People with High Well-Being do?

In order to combat (Upward )Social Comparison (i.e., when we compare ourselves to others above us in some category to determine our well-being), compare yourself with people who are worse than you.

Point: To maintain well-being, constantly compare yourself with people who are less fortunate than you (use a downward comparison rather than an upward one). focus on gratitude every day.

(Grenville-Cleave, 2012).

In order to combat the Hedonic Treadmill (i.e., Being stuck on a I-must-have-more-to-be-Happy cycle) understand that the boost from getting something or experiencing a positive event will not last. Focus more on short-term gains and understand that the adaptation principle goes for both good and bad experiences. You won’t always be bitter or upset.

Point: To maintain well-being, Happy people savor the momentary short-lived experiences, have more realistic expectations, and put the thing in perspective.


What is the final well-being strategy?

In order to combat A Lack of Self-Control (i.e.,self-regulation of impulses), practice regular self-control on another activity, keep track of actions and consequences, and know that higher self-control is actually linked to better well-being. It improves with practice.


Point: To maintain well-being, Happy People live Disciplined Lives! Impulsive lifestyles are poor investments in well-being.

In conclusion,

Overall well-being consists of Experiencing Positive Emotions, Being Engaged in Something, Maintaining Positive Relationships, Finding Meaning and Purpose, and Achieving ones goals and mastery in life. Happy People find ways to focus on what’s important.

In order to maintain Positive well-being, Strategies are involved. You have to combat certain ways of thinking or faulty expectations. Be aware of the negativity bias, duration neglect, upward social comparisons, the hedonic treadmill, and impulsivity and lack of self-control. Happy people choose to be happy each day and work at it.

Positive social psychology research focuses on social cognitive factors such as Outcome expectancies, self-fulfilling prophecies and optimistic explanatory styles vs. pessimistic explanatory styles. However, at times, there may be some benefits of using a balance of optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles to maintain overall well-being.