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Plenary and Invited Speakers

Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D.
Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
David Cooperrider, Ph.D.
Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D.
Tom Rath
Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.
Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.
Carmelo Vazquez, Ph.D.
Carol Ryff, Ph.D.
Kenneth Pargament, Ph.D.
Richie Davidson, Ph.D.
Robert Quinn, Ph.D.
Rhonda Cornum, MD, Ph.D.
John Kim, Ph.D.
Kaiping Peng, Ph.D.
Corey Keyes, Ph.D.
Mihayl Csikszentmihayli, Ph.D.
James O. Pawelski, Ph.D. 


Tal Ben-Shahar

Change that Lasts

Most personal and organizational change efforts fail.  While initial excitement may be high following a workshop or program, more often than not people go back to where they were prior to the intervention.  To enjoy change that lasts, that goes beyond the “honeymoon period”, insights must be followed up with actual behaviors and concrete rituals.

Martin Seligman

Positive Psychology: The Cutting Edge in Research and Teaching

 

David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider, Ph.D.

Mirror Flourishing: Appreciative Inquiry and the Designing of Positive Institutions
In this plenary David Cooperrider explores the proposition that the quest for a flourishing earth is
the most significant positive psychology and organization development opportunity of the 21stcenturyand that when people in organizations work toward building a sustainable andflourishing world they too are poised to flourish in ways that elevate innovation, personalexcellence, and workplace well being.  Put another way, corporate citizenship “out there” is notonly about serving or satisfying external stakeholders, it is also core to individual flourishinginside the firm. Sustainable value creation and shared wellbeing might well reinforce and workboth ways and thereby raises a far-reaching exploration: what is the link between advancingsustainability for a flourishing Earth, with the interdependent flourishing of the human side ofenterprise?  And how might the new scholarship on positive institutions shed light on thisimportant but under-researched dynamic? How, precisely, might an organization’s quest for
sustainable value bring out the best not just on the outsidehelping to advance a better society orworldbut also bring out the best on the “inside”–in the flourishing of people, the quality oftheir relationships, their health and well-being, their motivation and performance, and theircapacity for growth, resilience, and positive change?

Using data from over 3,000 appreciative inquiry interviews into “business as an agent of worldbenefit” David Cooperrider shares a myriad of diverse stories but just one overarchingconclusion: there is nothing that brings out the best in human enterprise faster, more consistently,or powerfully than calling a whole organization to design “bright green” solutions to humanity’s greatest social and environmental challenges.

Haidt

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D.

Capitalism, Values, Institutions, and Large Scale Flourishing

The 2015 World Happiness Report shows that almost all of the happiest countries are free-market societies, and almost all of the least happy countries are not. In my talk I’ll discuss the many relationships between capitalism and happiness, and I’ll analyze the intense moralism that often surrounds discussions of capitalism. I’ll suggest that one imperative for international positive psychology in the 21st century is to help countries find their own ways to balance the sometimes-competing needs for dynamism and decency.

Tom Rath

Fully Charging Your Work and Life

Tom Rath, author of five international bestsellers, will share his latest research
about how small choices profoundly affect our daily well-being and effectivenessat work.  Drawing on the latest research from business, psychology, andeconomics, Tom’s talk will focus on the most practical changes we can make tocreate better days for ourselves and others. He will address the importance ofmeaningful work, the influence of relationships and interactions, and discuss howwe can create the physical energy we need in order to be our best every day. 

Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.

Heart-Brain Dynamics: The Role of Self-Regulation and Psychophysiological Coherence in Optimal Functioning

This presentation will provide an overview of a heart-focused approach to self-regulation and energymanagement for building and sustaining resilience. Most of the self-regulation techniques include theintentional activation of a positive emotion and have been shown to provide a wide range of personal,social and organizational benefits, such as lowered health care costs, reductions in staff turnover,mistakes, and improved teamwork, communication and shorter meeting times. The presentation willdiscuss the physiology of heart-brain communication and how the rhythm of heart directly influencesemotional experience and cognitive functioning. It will also discuss how and why heart rate variability(HRV) can be used as an index self-regulatory capacity and how it can also be used to facilitate theacquisition of emotional self-regulation skills and improve cognitive functioning. In addition, research on the “science of what connects us” will be discussed. This includes data showing that the heart radiates a measurable magnetic field which carries emotional state information, and can be detected by the nervoussystems of nearby animals and other people. These section includes data showing  that the earth andionosphere generate a symphony of resonant frequencies that are in the same range as those of thehuman heart, autonomic nervous system, and brain. Outcome data will be shown on how changes inthese fields affect human emotions and behaviors as well as some surprising new data indicating that theearth’s magnetic field interconnects humanity at deep and fundamental level.

Mihaly Csikszentmihayli, Ph.D.

Effects and Global Reach of Positive Psychology

I assume we are all more or less agreed as to the goals of Positive Psychology. We are all dedicated to help humanity fulfill its great potential, and direct the evolutionary forces towards a world of peace, prosperity, and continuing psychic complexity. Where we often differ is as to the means for reaching this common goal. So far, a great deal of work has been done to improve the quality of life through mindfulness, gratitude, savoring, and other techniques the individual can learn to use. Also, much has been accomplished at the level of organizations. What we should not forget, however, is that individual and local solutions take place in the wider context of society and culture. If the momentum of the culture as a whole is forcing us in directions that work against our goals, what can Positive Psychology do to steer the future in directions more in line with our ultimate goals? 

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Positivity Resonates

Author of Positivity and Love 2.0, Professor Barbara Fredrickson’s most recent research offers an innovative approach to understanding the multiple ways by which positive emotions promote physical health.  Most known for her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, which identifies positive emotions as key drivers of individual and collective resource building, Dr. Fredrickson’s research reveals how positive emotions alter heart health and molecular physiology.  Stepping off from this work, she has more recently developed what she has called the upward spiral theory of lifestyle change. This new integrative model positions positive emotions as creating non conscious and increasing motives for wellness behavior, rooted in enduring biological changes. In this presentation, Dr. Fredrickson will describe the origins of and evidence for this new perspective on how positive emotions promote physical health. Implications for how best to promote positive lifestyle changes are illuminated. 

James Pawelski

The Positive Humanities: A New Approach to Human Flourishing

The field of positive psychology was founded nearly twenty years ago when Martin Seligman, along
with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observed that psychology focused much more on pathology than on well-being. Today, there is a similar overemphasis on pathology and ill-being throughout much of the arts and humanities. The nascent field of the positive humanities calls for an explicit emphasis on well-being to balance current approaches in literature, music, art, movies, philosophy, history, religion, and other cultural domains. A strategic collaboration between the positive humanities and positive psychology can benefit both fields in their ability to understand, cultivate, and measure well-being. More broadly, such collaboration can benefit humanity by creating new approaches to human flourishing.

 

Invited Speaker Presentations

Each program track will feature 9-10 presentations including our invited speakers highlighted below:

Carmelo Vázquez, Ph.D.

Track 1: Positive Psychology and Clinical Psychology: Emerging Promises and Translational Challenges

In this presentation it will be strongly emphasized that the only way for Positive Psychology (PP) tosurvive in the long run is to keep it anchored in good science and good practices. In this talk I willdescribe how some findings from basic research on positive emotions and positive cognitions, from ourgroup and others, are providing unexpected new insights on several clinical phenomena like trauma anddepression. It will be proposed that, following the well-known classical model of translational science, PPmust make a continuous effort to translate basic research on positive functioning to the field ofintervention and prevention. Although most of the research and applications of PP has been focused on non-pathological individualsand institutions, clinical conditions pose an ultimate challenge to PP. There are several factors that justifythe relevance of PP in the clinical field. First of all, research consistently shows that positive and negativecognitions and emotions must be understood as relatively separate entities. This basic notion hasprofound consequences to understand and assess mental disorders and psychologists, and clinicalpsychologists in particular, should be fully aware of it. Secondly, a positive view on functioning isexpanding our understanding of how human beings react to adversity and life difficulties. Thirdly, there ispromising research showing that positive interventions can be appropriately used to treat a variety ofclinical problems.In sum, rather than being a separatist force within Psychology, PP is substantially contributing tocomplement, in an innovative way, our view of human functioning even in conditions of distress and malfunctioning.

Carol Ryff, Ph.D.

Track 2: Past, Present and Future Perspectives of Eudaimonic Well-being

More than 25 years ago, I proposed a multidimensional model of psychological well-being (Ryff,1989), derived from the integration of numerous perspectives on positive human functioning. More than 350 publications have been generated with the self-report scales constructed to assess various dimensions of well-being. I will briefly highlight overarching themes in past research findings. With regard to present research, I will summarize the growing body of evidence showing that purposeful, engaged, growth-oriented living is linked with better health, including reduced biological risk factors, reduced morbidity, and longer lives. With regard to future research, I will highlight emerging efforts to promote eudaimonic well-being in both clinical and educational contexts.

Kenneth Pargament, Ph.D.

Track 3: Sacred Moments: A Hidden Ingredient of Resilience and Change

Spirituality can be integrated into virtually every dimension of life.  Relationships, work, nature,virtues, the body can all be imbued with sacred qualities, and when they are, research indicates, theytake on special power and significance.  This paper will focus on how particular moments in time can beexperienced as sacred and the implications of these moments for resilience and change.  “Sacredmoments” refer to brief periods of time during which people experience spiritual qualities oftranscendence, ultimacy, boundlessness, interconnectedness, and spiritual emotions.    Sacred momentsare not limited to extraordinary encounters (e.g., near death or mystical experiences); they may alsooccur in many kinds of relationships, including helping relationships.  We will present striking examplesof sacred moments and the transformations they can trigger.  We will also report on the results of tworecent studies of sacred moments in the context of psychotherapy.  The findings suggest that:  (a) sacredmoments are not unusual; and (b) sacred moments are robustly tied to benefits for not only clients butalso providers and the helping alliance.  

Richie Davidson, Ph.D.

Track 4: Well-being: Perspectives from Affective and Contemplative Neuroscience

This talk will present an overview of work in our Center that focuses on some of thefundamental constituents of well-being, their neural bases and biobehavioralcorrelates, and how they can be cultivated through mental training.  In addition,disorders that may arise from abnormalities in some of these constituents will beconsidered.  Emphasis will be placed on prefrontal, ventral striatal and amygdalacircuitry and connectivity that may play a role in aspects of well-being.  Both basicand translational neuroscientific and behavioral research on the impact of specificcontemplative practices will also be featured.  One of the key conclusions of thisbody of research is that well-being is best conceptualized as a skill that can beenhanced through training.  

Robert Quinn, Ph.D.

Track 5: Turning Organizations Positive: An Invitation to Cultural Surgery

Social science suggests that in organizations people tend to pursue self-interests, minimize
personal costs, feel fear, prefer the status quo, endure constraints, stay in their roles, speak inpolitically correct ways, fail to see opportunities, compete for resources, experience conflict,become alienated, deny feedback, fail to learn, under-perform and personally stagnate. In morepositive organizations the people tend to embrace the common good, make spontaneouscontributions, feel confident, seek growth, overcome constraints, expand their roles, express theirauthentic voice, see and seize new opportunities, build social networks, nurture high qualityconnections, embrace feedback, learn, exceed expectations, and personally flourish. In this talk Ifocus on the question of how to turn a conventional organizational culture into a positive culture.I explore five levers that can be used to bring about such a transformation.

Track 6: Critiques of Positive Psychology

Kim Cameron, Ph.D.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.
Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.
Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D.
Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
Carmelo Vazquez, Ph.D

Positive psychology has generated a variety of critics.  A number of published and unpublished criticisms, attacks, and even condemnations have appeared regarding the general orientation of positive psychology, the research in positive psychology, the practice of positive psychology, and the effects of positive psychology.  This session addresses several of these criticisms with a panel of well-known positive psychology scholars.

Rhonda Cornum, MD, Ph.D.

Track 7: The Power of Optimism (and Gratitude, Good Relationships, Accomplishment…)

Long term follow up of hundreds of Prisoners of War (POW) from Viet Nam revealed that optimistic
thinking was the variable most responsible for lack of any psychological diagnoses following repatriationfrom years of captivity.  Using my own personal experience, I believe indefatigable optimism explainswhy I did extremely well following a POW misadventure in 1991, while some others did significantly lesswell. Since we know that optimistic thinking, along with other positive thinking skills, can be learned, Isuggest that we owe it to young people to teach skills that will be valuable regardless of what they choseto do later in life.  This was started in the Army (and later in the Air Force) in 2009, and continues today.I believe an important question is how to ensure that all kids have the opportunity to learn these skills ifthey do not get them at home.

John Kim, Ph.D.

Track 8: Positive Organizational Scholarship:  A Professional and Personal Journal

The CEO of a large, well known corporation in the United States offers a professional and
personal reflection on how positive organizational scholarship has been successfully applied in a large corporation.

Kaiping Peng, Ph.D.

Track 9: Positive Psychology in China

This session discusses the application and progress of Positive Psychology in China.  The growth of the Positive Psychology movement as well as the impacts of Positive Psychology on Chinese leaders and organizations is discussed.

Corey Keyes, Ph.D.

Track 11: My Search for Flourishing
I first introduced my notion of flourishing in 1999 at the first Akumal meeting of Positive Psychology and Summit of Positive Psychology. I was delighted to participate in the early phase of Positive Psychology, but remained skeptical of its necessity unless the budding science behind it could and would be used to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Mental illness became a worldwide public health problem in 1996 due to the first Global Burden of Disease study. Depression, in particular, remains among the top three causes of burden to societies around the globe. In this talk I will use my own personal journey – a story shared by millions worldwide – from abandonment, childhood abuse, adoption, depression, PTSD, languishing and finally to flourishing in life. Science and my personal journey through recovery and resilience have convinced my skeptical mind of the need for flourishing in particular, and Positive Psychology in general.