Positive psychology: past, present, and (possible) future

Alex P. Linley, Stephen Joseph, Susan Harrington, Alex M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

403 Citations (Scopus)


What is positive psychology? Where has it come from? Where is it going? These are the questions we address in this article. In defining positive psychology, we distinguish between the meta-psychological level, where the aim of positive psychology is to redress the imbalance in psychology research and practice, and the pragmatic level, which is concerned with what positive psychologists do, in terms of their research, practice, and areas of interest. These distinctions in how we understand positive psychology are then used to shape conceptions of possible futures for positive psychology. In conclusion, we identify several pertinent issues for the consideration of positive psychology as it moves forward. These include the need to synthesize the positive and negative, build on its historical antecedents, integrate across levels of analysis, build constituency with powerful stakeholders, and be aware of the implications of description versus prescription.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Applications
  • Future
  • Positive psychology definition
  • Practice
  • Research


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