Martin Seligman

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Martin Seligman
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Born (1942-08-12) August 12, 1942 (age 72)
Albany, New York
Other names Marty
Education Ph.D. in psychology at University of Pennsylvania
Alma mater Princeton University
Occupation Psychologist, educator, and author
Employer University of Pennsylvania
Title Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology

Martin E. P. "Marty" Seligman (born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books. His theory of learned helplessness is popular among scientific and clinical psychologists.[1]

According to Haggbloom et al.'s study of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, Seligman was the 13th most frequently cited psychologist in introductory psychology textbooks throughout the century, as well as the 31st most eminent overall.[2]

Seligman has been criticized by philosophers and the animal rights movement for carrying out "morally ambiguous", "reprehensible" and "macabre" painful animal experiments,[3][4] something he claims is outperformed by the benefit of his scientific contribution for humans.

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.[5] Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association for 1998.[6] He is the founding editor-in-chief of Prevention and Treatment Magazine (the APA electronic journal) and is on the board of advisers of Parents magazine.

Seligman has written about positive psychology topics such as The Optimistic Child, Child's Play, Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, and Flourish.

Early life and education[edit]

Seligman was born in Albany, New York. He was educated at a public school and at The Albany Academy. He earned a bachelors degree at Princeton University in 1964, graduating Summa Cum Laude (Philosophy).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.[7] He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology at University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Learned helplessness[edit]

Main article: 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.[8]

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.[9] In later years, alongside Abramson, Seligman reformulated his theory of learned helplessness to include attributional style.[10]

According to author Jane Mayer,[11] 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[edit]

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.[12] One of their key points is that they 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, Martin Seligman encouraged 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, he appeared on Newsnight and was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about his ideas and his interest in the concept of well-being.

PERMA[edit]

While presenting "Flourish" to the Royal Society of Arts,[13] Seligman articulated an account of the good life, which consisted of five elements under the acronym PERMA:

  • Positive emotion — tunable by writing down, every day at bed time, three things that went well, and why
  • Engagement — tunable by preferentially using one's highest strengths to perform the tasks which one would perform anyway
  • Relationships — tunable, but not in a way that can be explained briefly; listen to timestamp 15:12 and following of the audio
  • Meaning — belonging to and serving something bigger than one's self
  • Achievement — determination is known to count for more than IQ

MAPP program[edit]

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.[14]

Personal life[edit]

According to an interview for his electronic journal Prevention and Treatment, Seligman said that magenta was his favorite color because of the amazing calming effects of the color on the human body.

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.[15]

He has seven children, four grandchildren, and three dogs. Seligman and his second wife, Mandy, live in a three-story mansion once occupied by Eugene Ormandy. They home-school three of their five children.[16]

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.[17]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bower, Gordon H. (1981). The psychology of learning and motivation: advances in research and theory. Academic Press, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 30. ISBN 9780125433150.  "The most popular theoretical interpretation of the learned helplessness phenomenon to date is that of Seligman (1975) and Maier and Seligman (1976)."
  2. ^ Haggbloom, S.J.; et al. (2002). "The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century". Review of General Psychology 6 (2): 139–152. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139. 
  3. ^ Bob Torres, "Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights", AK Press 2007
  4. ^ Philosopher Martha Nassbum, cited in Steven M. Wise, "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights", Basic Books 2003
  5. ^ Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. ^ List of APA Presidents
  7. ^ http://journals1.scholarsportal.info.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/tmp/16891448582641798321.pdf
  8. ^ Seligman, M.E.P.; Maier, S.F. (1967). "Failure to escape traumatic shock". Journal of Experimental Psychology 74 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1037/h0024514. PMID 6032570. ; Overmier, J.B.; Seligman, M.E.P. (1967). "Effects of inescapable shock upon subsequent escape and avoidance responding". Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 63 (1): 28–33. doi:10.1037/h0024166. PMID 6029715. 
  9. ^ Seligman, M.E.P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2328-X. 
  10. ^ Abramson, L.Y.; Seligman, M.E.P.; Teasdale, JD (1978). "Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation". Journal of Abnormal Psychology 87 (1): 49–74. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.87.1.49. PMID 649856. 
  11. ^ 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" 
  12. ^ Linley, P.A.; Maltby, J.; Wood, A.M.; Joseph, S.; Harrington, S.; Peterson, C.; Park, N.; Seligman, M.E.P. (2007). "Character strengths in the United Kingdom: The VIA Inventory of strengths" (PDF). Personality and Individual Differences 43 (2): 341–351. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.12.004. 
  13. ^ Seligman, Martin E.P. (6 July 2011). "Flourish". Royal Society of Arts.  audio, video
  14. ^ "MAPP program". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Francis, Henry G., Editor-in-Chief; Truscott, Alan F., Executive Editor; Francis, Dorthy A., Editor, Sixth Edition (2001). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge (6th ed.). Memphis, TN: American Contract Bridge League. p. 732. ISBN 0-943855-44-6. OCLC 49606900. 
  16. ^ Burling, Stacey (30 May 2010). "The power of a positive thinker". philly.com. The Inquirer - Interstate General Media. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Hirtz, Rob (January 1999). "Martin Seligman's Journey: from Learned Helplessness to Learned Happiness". The Pennsylvania Gazette. The University of Pennsylvania. 

External links[edit]