Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The European Conference on Positive Psychology


At the moment, the European Conference on Positive Psychology is taking place in Moscow, Russia. Of course cut-e scienceblog is present!

The conference opening took place at Moscow State University, where the grandfather of conference organiser Dmitry Leontiev had already taught psychology. The speakers who held the welcome addresses (besides Dmitry Leontiev there Hans-Henrik Knoop, President of the European Network for Positive Psychology, James Pawelski, Executive Director of the International Positive Psychology Association, and Robert Vallerand, President of the aforementioned association) all mentioned that there are a lot of misconceptions with respect to Positive Psychology. It is not positive thinking, and it is far more than happiness. Positive Psychology researchers want to find out what a good life is and how it can be achieved, practitioners want to help people, organisations and countries put these insights into practice. A good life is far more than the absence of physical and mental illness. As today’s opening keynote speaker Dmitry Leontiev explained, it is about emotions, strengths, meaning, and activity.

For example, there is optimal experience. Most of our readers are certainly familiar with the concept of flow, the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in the task currently performed, stops thinking about the self, and completely forgets about time. In his opening keynote, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who became famous for his research on the topic summed up the concept once more for everyone and then came up with some recent research. We know that flow appears, amongst other things, when there is an optimal balance of challenge by the task and the abilities and skills of the person who is performing the task. Csíkszentmihályi found that chess players had the greatest experience of flow not when they played against someone they could easily beat. That’s no surprise because it is not a challenge. But even when they played against someone of the same skill, flow experience was not highest. It was highest when they played against someone who was slightly better than they were. So challenge and the opportunity to learn seem to play an important role for experiencing flow – at least for chess players.

We elaborated more deeply on flow in everyday life in today’s workshop by Nina Hanssen and Frans Orsted Andersen from the University of Arhus in Denmark. They had interviewed many people who were good at experiencing flow in everyday life and found that achieving this state is a very personal thing. So everyone needs to find their own factors influencing the experience. However, there are a number of general factors that seem to be important. For example, we should try to focus our attention. This means we should do one and only one thing at a time and put aside everything that could distract us. New tasks seems to be helpful, and also varying the demands. One cannot always work on demanding tasks, interruptions with simpler ones can be very helpful. Many people seem to experience flow when they travel, for example on the plane or on the train. Being outside in nature can also be beneficial.

As we are dealing with psychological research, methodology is also a big topic. Thus, today’s second keynote speech was by Michael Eid. He explained how the technique of structural equation modeling can be used for analysing ambulatory assessment data. These are data that are gathered from people throughout the day during a certain period of time (days or weeks) in order to learn more about their mental states, for example emotions and moods, and how they fluctuate.

The last keynote speech today was by Shalom Schwartz, and he outlined how values underlie and undermine happiness. He has developed a widely accepted model of ten basic values. Values like self-direction and stimulation seem to be beneficial for happiness, whereas values like power or security are negatively related to happiness. There are cultural differences: the relations are lowest in egalitarian countries like for example Germany and Denmark. The less egalitarian the country, the higher the correlations!

It was an interesting and inspiring day, and two more promising days are coming up!

1 comment:

  1. Great that you enjoyed our workshop on flow in everyday life:-) Thank you.

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