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Queen's University

The power of positive thinking

Psychology Associate Professor, Dean Tripp

onQ Christina Archibald

Over the past 10 years, approximately 1,000 papers have been published that fall under the category of ‘positive psychology,’ a branch of psychology concerned with the study of positive human functioning. For Dean Tripp, this development has been both a blessing and a concern.

As a health psychologist in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Tripp has focused much of his previous research on illness models, coping responses to pain and the impact of stress on health. But he’s always been intrigued by people’s resiliency in the face of difficult life experiences, and from this perspective, feels that the growing interest in, and focus on, positive psychology is something to be celebrated.

“Our health care system is targeted on illness, so it makes complete sense that the focus should be on the negative outcomes associated with mental illness. However, proponents of positive psychology suggest that the other side of the coin should also be examined—how people cope andremain resilient, even happy, in the face of enormous challenges and stresses,” explains Dr. Tripp.

Positive psychology has garnered an enormous popular culture following, but concerned critics complain that this movement is based on far-reaching extrapolations of the core research. Dr. Tripp agrees that it’s important to critically examine and question how far this popular movement of positive psychology has outstripped what the research has suggested.

To this end and to help guide his own future research in the field, Dr Tripp has developed the Department of Psychology’s first course in positive psychology, which will be launched this fall. The course will examine the positive features of resilient people and explore the principles of positive psychology from a critical and scientific perspective.

Go to onQ June 2011

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000