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UW-Eau Claire Psychologists Collaborate On New Book in Emerging Field

RELEASED: Nov. 17, 2008

book cover Positive PsychologyEAU CLAIRE — Two University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professors have collaborated on a new book, "Positive Psychology," which reviews the research and theory related to the emerging area of positive psychology.

Professor emeritus of psychology Dr. Steve Baumgardner, whose specialty is social psychology and who did the research and writing for the book, said this relatively new field is focused on developing a psychological and socio-cultural understanding of the meaning and measure of happiness, as well as the means to living "a good life."

Although the term "positive psychology" originated with Abraham Maslow, it was recognized as a new area of study in 1998 when Dr. Martin Seligman, as president of the American Psychological Association, stressed its importance and pointed out that psychology had long been focused on mental illness and the abnormal rather than on attempting to understand what constitutes mental wellness, Baumgardner said.

"Research has now begun to document the real ability of positive emotions to affect us positively, going beyond even the ability to neutralize negative emotions," Baumgardner said. "Positive emotions build our physical, psychological and social resources."

The book is designed to serve as a primary text for an undergraduate college course in positive psychology, and Baumgardner said he started working on the project out of frustration.

"There were no undergraduate texts on this subject when I began teaching it, so I had to cobble together a syllabus for my students from individual readings in a variety of journals," Baumgardner said, noting that many of those were intended for professional psychologists and graduate level students.

"There are a few more books out there now, but this is one of the first research theory-based texts for undergraduates," Baumgardner said. "It offers a 'nuts and bolts' approach to positive psychology and provides detailed coverage of individual research studies, methodological issues and theoretical controversies."

The book was published in September by Pearson Publishing. Baumgardner was pleased that it has been reviewed by at least a dozen psychologists and the University of Delaware has already adopted it for use in their undergraduate classes.

Associate professor of psychology Dr. Mickey (Marie) Crothers, who teaches in the area of clinical and abnormal psychology, edited the book, which took nearly four years to complete. Baumgardner said he was in awe of the work she did.

"We had over a thousand references in the book," Baumgardner said. "Mickey's scholarship really shone through in this time-consuming work."

Crothers said she was Baumgardner's student when she was 19 years old and attending UW-Eau Claire herself.

"In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined he would invite me, nearly 30 years later, to collaborate on a book with him," Crothers said, noting that she sat in on Baumgardner's class on positive psychology when he first offered it about five years ago. And in working together, she said they were delighted to find their writing strengths were complementary.

"There are numerous prominent theorists and researchers in the emerging field of positive psychology, most of whom are focused either on global, overarching theories or on highly specific, circumscribed sub-topics," Crothers said. "But when it comes to a comprehensive knowledge, grasp, and synthesis of the entire positive psychology literature, Id be willing to bet Steve is the preeminent scholar in the nation right now. The opportunity to work with him on this book has been a great privilege."

Baumgardner said he and Crothers collaborated with a team of undergraduate readers and had conversations with recent graduates on the subject of positive psychology to make sure the text was engaging and relevant for its intended audience.

"Positive Psychology" is available online from Amazon.com. In January 2009, an instructors' manual also will be published to assist teachers new to the subject of positive psychology.

For more information, contact Baumgardner at baumgasr@uwec.edu.

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NW/JB

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