The scientific and
of human strengths
"What is right about people?" The authors welcome their readers with the ubiquitous challenge of the positive psychology movement to consider what is right rather than what is wrong with people (p. 3). The authors designed the book as a textbook to provide a comprehensive overview of topics in the field. This is the third collaboration of the two University of Kansas authors. Unfortunately, it will be their last because senior author, C. R. (Rick) Snyder died January 17, 2006, a little more than a month after delivering the final draft of the manuscript (xxv),
Readers will experience an extensive tour of the expansive landscape of positive psychology with 19 chapters organized in 8 parts followed by 60 pages of references, along with author and subject indexes. Part I contains chapters 1-4, which provide an overview of positive psychology along with summary chapters on Eastern and Western philosophical foundations for the field. As with any summary, the knowledgeable reader will find the sweeping generalizations a bit too simplistic. The three chapters of part Il reflect the authors' views about the ways positive psychology may influence individual lifestyles and human development, as well as the role of culture in determining what is positive. I view parts Ill to V as the heart of positive psychology. These sections represent the common cognitive-behavioral triad of en10tion (Part Ill, two chapters about positive emotional states and experiences), cognition (Pan IV, three chapters on topics such as self-efficacy, optimism, and hope), and behavior (Part V, two chapters that examine positive interpersonal behaviors such as gratitude, love, and flourishing).
Part VI contains ideas for self-improvement and suggestions for prevention of mental health problems as well as primary enhancement of physical and psychological health, Part Vll examines the possibilities of positive influences in the common environments of school (Chapter 16), work (Chapter 17), and the community (Chapter 18).
In Part VIll, the authors organized an interesting agglomeration of visionary statements by well-known positive psychologists (e.g., Ed Diener, David Myers, Shelley Taylor). Of particular interest to JPC readers will be the comments by Kenneth Pargament and Ev Worthington. Pargament appears to see a growing role for faith and religion when he opines that "spirituality is what makes us uniquely human" (p. 489). In addition, Worthington envisions the need to address the impact of growing levels of stress disorders and problems such as violence associated with projected increases in population primarily located in urban environments. This section could have been enhanced if the authors had provided either a synthesis of the opinions or an analysis suggesting the weight they would assign given their perspective on the science. However, the blog-like motif is interesting and certainly consistent with the current zeitgeist. The entry by P. Alex Linley of the University of Leicester serves as a denouement assuming the paradox of a successful failure of positive psychology. That is, if the positive psychology movement succeeds, then psychology will balance both positive and negative aspects of functioning and, thus, obviate the need for a distinctive positive psychology.
Although the work was designed as a textbook, readers who are clinicians will find the book useful on several counts. First, the authors have produced a comprehensive introduction to positive psychology, which is having a significant impact on research and practice both in the academy and in industry and government. Second, the book contains a number of activities and rating scales that could prove useful in clinical practice. Third, readers who are asked to speak on various topics will find the book a good starting point for an introductory talk, The stories and exercises can be engaging, and the 59 pages of references provide solid leads to additional information.
As a textbook, it is most suitable for seniors or first year graduate students. The writing style has some limitations. For example, the authors often write in a plodding, passive style reminiscent of journal articles before 2000. Overall, the limitations are mere quibbles because the book is a trove of information. I would certainly recommend it to professors and clinicians alike.
Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. (2007). Positive psychology: the scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Note, A newer edition is available See the Fourth Edition
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