The International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) offers members year-round opportunities to learn about the science and application of positive psychology, and to connect with experts in the field. One example is through the Positive Psychology Leader Series program, which features monthly webinars and Q&A with distinguished practitioners and academics.

Why can’t you imagine me as good? Studying positive psychology in urban African American communities
with Jacqueline Mattis, Ph.D.

December 4th, 1:30pm – 2:30pm EST*

Abstract: Historically social science research has conceived of urban settings as sites of stress and social disorder, and urban-residing African American youth and adults as people perpetually embedded in social disorder. Consistent with this narrow view of urban settings and urban-residing individuals, positive psychology has generally failed to attend to positive development among African American people living with the everyday complexities of urban life. This talk has three aims. First, I introduce a socioecological, transactional framework for exploring positive development among urban dwellers (SET-RS Urban; Mattis, Palmer, & Hope, 2019). This framework explores how positive and prosocial outcomes manifest and evolve within the unique sociopolitical, structural, and relational conditions that characterize city life. Second, I explore how the SET-RS framework reshapes our understandings of the factors that promote positive outcomes (e.g., compassion, optimism, altruism, forgiveness, love) among urban-residing African American youth and adults. Finally, I issue a challenge to positive psychology to move beyond acultural, apolitical, and acontextual approaches to positive human development. I assert that the failure to meet this challenge will limit positive psychology’s relevance in the decades ahead.

Speaker Biography: Jacqueline S. Mattis, Ph.D. is Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-Newark. She earned her B.A. in psychology from New York University, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of African American and Afri-Caribbean youth and adults, and on the factors that are associated with positive psychological and psychosocial development of urban-residing African Americans and AfriCaribbeans. In particular, she uses quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the factors that contribute to volunteerism, civic engagement, altruism, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, optimism, and positive parenting among urban-residing African American and Afri-diasporic people. She has co-authored numerous articles and has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals. She co-authored (with collaborator Fulya Kurter) two books on counseling in the Turkish cultural context, including a handbook entitled “Culturally sensitive counseling from the perspective of Turkish practitioners” (Bahcesehir University Press). This handbook explores the topic of culture, cultural diversity and intercultural dynamics within Turkey as these issues apply to the practice of counseling. Among the honors she has received over her career are the Distinguished Psychologist Award from the Association of Black Psychologists (2014); and NYU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award (2011) for teaching excellence, leadership, social justice and community building. She has been recognized for her mentorship and teaching. She received the 2020 Paul M. Fitts Graduate Mentor Award from the University of Michigan Graduate Leadership Council) for outstanding mentorship of graduate students in Psychology, and the 2020 Cornerstone Award for unique contributions to enhancing the academic and social progress of African American students at the University of Michigan. She also received the Outstanding Mentor Award from the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities program (2019).

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