The Science of Optimism and Hope

Research Essays in Honor of Martin E. P. Seligman

Edited by Jane Gillham

Optimism and hope are not random feelings; they can be conscious choices. Martin E. P. Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the world's leading authorities on learned helplessness and its relation to optimism and hope. He is also the best-selling author of Learned Optimism (Knopf, 1991). In recognition of his contribution to the field, the John Templeton Foundation hosted a symposium to honor his work and to document its tremendous influence on the world of psychological research.

This volume brings together eminent psychologists and professionals whose work has been greatly influenced by Seligman's innovative approach. The contributions include those of Steven Maier, who examines the neurobiology of helplessness and resilience. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema looks at resilience among bereaved people and how personality variables, such as optimism and coping styles, can affect this state.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi relates his research in understanding happiness by focusing on the phenomenon of “flow,” a state of present-mindedness that happens when people are totally immersed in what they love doing. David Myers discusses the relationship of hope and happiness to religion.

Dr. Seligman's work in learning how to transform negative thoughts offers many people the opportunity to rise above pessimism and depression. The impact of these feelings on our physical and psychological states can be proved and studied, as this volume so clearly demonstrates.

Preface / ix

Part I: History

Introduction / 3
Jane E. Gillham

1. From Helplessness to Hope: The Seminal Career of Martin Seligman / 11
Steven. F. Maier, Christopher Peterson, and Barry Schwartz

Part II: Optimism and Well-Being in Individuals

2. The Neurobiology of Stressor Controllability / 41
Steven F. Maier and Linda R. Watkins

3. The Neurochemistry of Stress Resilience and Coping: A Quest for Nature’s Own Antidote to Illness / 57
Robert C. Drugan

4. Optimistic Cognitive Styles and Invulnerability to Depression / 75
Lyn Y. Abramson, Lauren B. Alloy, Benjamin L. Hankin, Caroline M. Clements, Lin Zhu, Michael E. Hogan, and Wayne G. Whitehouse

5. Commentary on the Temple-Wisconsin Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression Project: Causality in Non-Experimental Mental Health Research / 99
Thomas E. Joiner, Jr.

6. Growth and Resilience Among Bereaved People / 107
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema

7. The Hope Mandala: Coping with the Loss of a Loved One / 129
C.R. Snyder

8. Optimistic Explanatory Style and Health / 145
Christopher Peterson

9. What I Do Know Won’t Hurt Me: Optimism, Attention to Negative Information, Coping, and Health / 163
Lisa G. Aspinwall and Susanne M. Brunhart

10. On the Mechanisms by Which Optimism Promotes Positive Mental and Physical Health: A Commentary on Aspinwall and Brunhart / 201
Lauren B. Alloy, Lyn Y. Abramson, and Alexandra M. Chiara

11. Promoting Hope in Children and Adolescents / 215
Andrew J. Statté, Jane E. Gillham, and Karen Reivich

12. Discussion of the Penn Optimism Program: Recognizing Its Strengths and Considerations for Enhancing the Program / 235
Kevin D. Stark and Janay Boswell

13. Commentary: New Directions for Study / 259
Stanley Rachman

14. How Negative Psychology Is Integral to Positive Psychology / 263
Robert J. DeRubeis

Part III: Optimism in Families and Cultures

15. Optimism and the Family / 271
Frank D. Fincham

16. Optimism: Definitions and Origins / 299
Judy Garber

17. On Chaos, Fractals, and Stress: Response to Fincham’s “Optimism and the Family” / 315
Everett L. Worthington, Jr.

18. Hope and Happiness / 323
David G. Myers

19. Intergenerational Transmission of Religion / 337
Lisa Miller

20. The Role of Faith in Shaping Optimism / 341
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

21. Optimism, Culture, and History: The Roles of Explanatory Style, Integrative Complexity, and Pessimistic Rumination / 349
Jason M. Satterfield

22. Comments: Optimism and the Laws of Life, History, and Culture / 379
Christopher Peterson and Michael P. Bishop

23. The Contribution of Flow to Positive Psychology / 387
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

24. Pitfalls on the Road to a Positive Psychology of Hope / 399
Barry Schwartz

Part IV: Seligman Address

25. Positive Psychology / 415
Martin E. P. Seligman

Contributors / 431

Index / 437