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Psychologist Martin Seligman is a leader in the field of Positive Psychology.
Martin E. P. Seligman was born on August 12, 1942 in Albany, New York. He is a distinguished and honored psychologist who has made breakthroughs in the field. Known for best-selling publications, numerous awards, and holding the presidency of the American Psychology Association, Seligman has contributed a great deal to science and practice. Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology and the current Fox Leadership Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania, Seligman founded the first educational initiative towards Positive Psychology with the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program.
Martin E.P. Seligman was born on August 12, 1942 in Albany, New York. After high school, he continued his higher education at Princeton University, receiving an A.B. in 1964. He married Mandy McCarthy and, together, they raised six children, Amanda, David, Lara, Nicole, Darryl, and Carly. Seligman earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. His career began as an assistant professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and then back to the University of Pennsylvania where he continued as associate professor, then a professor of psychology. He continued research and began to redefine how the mental illness of depression was viewed by psychology and psychiatry. Seligman began research on the theory of learned helplessness—a learned pessimistic attitude—which led him to significant breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of depression. His research on depression and pessimism transformed into new ideas about optimism; this began a new and notable route for the field of psychology.
In 1980, Seligman was announced the Director of the Clinical Training Program of the Psychology Department at the University of Pennsylvania and remained in that position for 14 years. During this time, he received the "Distinguished Practitioner" award by the National Academies of Practice and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association's award for &ldquoldquo;Distinguished Contributions to Science and Practice," along with many other awards throughout his career, for his research on various aspects of psychology including depression, helplessness, social behavior, and depression in children. A number of institutions have supported Seligman's outstanding research and writing, including the National Institute of Aging, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health, which gave him a MERIT Award for his research on depression in 1991.
In 1995, while campaigning for the American Psychological Association's presidency, Seligman had a significant incident with his daughter Nicki. While doing garden work, Seligman scolded Nicki, who had decided to stop whining starting on her birthday. She reminded her father that she had not whined once since that day, 11 months ago. She continued and lectured that if she could stop whining, Seligman, a born pessimist, could "stop being a grouch." This sudden insight gave Seligman a new outlook to the research he had been doing and he decided to turn his attention to optimism, instead of pessimism. Seligman won the presidency position of APA in 1996 with the largest vote in history and as president, was given the opportunity to choose a theme for his term in office. Seligman decided to take the question of makes human beings able to flourish and turn it into a new vision of psychology. Seligman wanted psychology to acknowledge mental health, as it was absent due to primary focus on mental illness; he sought to create a new frontier to Psychology, one that made happiness its primary goal.
Seligman's aim was to integrate practice and science with the study of Positive Psychology; he felt that Psychology needed an additional route, one that studied strength and virtue, not just the negative weakness and illness. As Claudia Wallis stated in Time Magazine, "he wanted to persuade substantial numbers in the profession to explore the region north of zero, to look at what actively made people feel fulfilled, engaged and meaningfully happy." Seligman's ebullience on this new field of psychology led to an explosion of research on Positive Psychology, including the topics of happiness, optimism, positive character, and positive emotions. Optimism played a major role in this new work, as it was seen, to Seligman, effective in immunizing against depression.
Seligman has published about 20 books and 200 articles on motivation and personality; his best-known books include Learned Optimism, What You Can Change and What You Can't, The Optimistic Child, and Authentic Happiness. His books have become best-sellers in the United States and abroad, where they have been translated into more than sixteen languages and received much praise. Many periodicals have featured Seligman as a front page honor; his work has been acclaimed in the New York Times, Time, Fortune, Reader's Digest and many others. These popular magazines have focused on Seligman's work and its relation to everyday people and making the world a happier, more optimistic, fulfilling place. Seligman has given lectures across educators, industry, parents, mental health professional, as well as on television and radio shows, on these topics on Positive Psychology, spreading insight that optimism and character strength go a long way.
In 2003, Seligman created the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently the Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology. The MAPP is the first educational program that places all emphasis on Positive Psychology. Through this program, Seligman has created a medium in which individuals can train to become Positive Psychologists and help make the world a happier place. This field of psychology has become distinguished nationwide; as stated by D.T. Max, in The New York Times in 2007, "Seligman's epiphany has taken a firm hold in academia...Last year's annual positive-psychology summit in Washington attracted hundreds of academics working in the field." With collaboration with Christopher Peterson, Seligman edited Character Strength and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, a groundbreaking research effort that classifies and measures universal strengths and virtues. Seligman is also the founding editor-in-chief of Prevention and Treatment, an electronic journal of the APA, a member of various boards, and a visiting professor at universities. After years of practice and science, a great number of awards and honors, numerous books and publications, and significant contributions to the field of Psychology, Seligman continues today to contribute to this extraordinary, growing route of psychology that was once just a vision of a happier world.
- Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death, San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1975.
- Abnormal Psychology. (With David L. Rosenhan) New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.
- Learned Optimism. New York: Knopf, 1990.
- What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. New York: Knopf, 1993.
- The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002.
- (Editor, with Christopher Peterson) Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford UP, 2004.
- "Research in Clinical Psychology." The G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series 9 (1989):65-96.
- "Science as an Ally of Practice." American Psychologist Special Issue: Outcome Assessment of Psychotherapy 51 (1996): 1072-1079.
- "Treatment Becomes Prevention and Treatment." Prevention and Treatment 1 (2), (1998): np.
- "Positive Psychology, Positive Prevention, and Positive Therapy." Handbook of Positive Psychology. Eds. C.R. Snyder & Shane J. Lopez. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 3-9.
- "Positive Psychotherapy." (With Tayyab Rashid and Acacia C. Parks) American Psychologist 61.8 (2006): 774-788.
- Hirtz, Rob. "Martin Seligman's Journey from Learned Helplessness to Learned Happiness." The Pennsylvania Gazette Jan/Feb. 1998. 6 Feb. 2008 <>http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0199/hirtz.html>.
- Kass, Sharon. "Martin E.P. Seligman touts Positive Psychology at Smithsonian Program." Monitor on Psychology 31, 9. October 2000. 14 Feb. 2008. <>http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct00/seligman.html>.
- "Martin E.P. Seligman." The Gale Literary Databases: Contemporary Authors Online. 2005. Thomas Gale. 5 Feb. 2008 <>http://galenet.galegroup.com>
- "Martin E.P. Seligman." The Third Culture. 2001. Edge Foundation, Inc. 6 Feb. 2008 <>http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/seligman.html>.
- Max, D.T. "Happiness 101." The New York Times 7 Jan. 2007: 46-52.
- "Meet Dr. Seligman." Authentic Happiness. 2006. University of Pennsylvania. 5 Feb. 2008 <>http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/seligman.aspx?id=157>.
- "Seligman Bio." Positive Psychology Center. 2007. University of Pennsylvania. 5 Feb. 2008 <>http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/bio.htm>.
- Wallis, Claudia. "The New Science of Happiness." Time 17 Jan. 2005: A2+.
Photo Credit: M.s.ananya. "Martin Seligman." 10 Feb 2019. Photograph. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. Cropped to 4x3. Source: Wikimedia Commons.