Home All MAPP Summit Poster Presentations Part IV: Peak Performance

MAPP Summit Poster Presentations Part IV: Peak Performance

written by Denise Clegg 10 November 2008

Denise Clegg, MAPP 08, is Program Officer for the Positive Neuroscience project at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. She also serves as a facilitator for the Penn Resilience Program and is a daily editor for Positive Psychology News Daily.

Denise writes on the 20th of each month, and her articles are here.

MAPP Penn LogoThe MAPP Summit Conference featured alumni presentations sharing some of the latest innovations in positive psychology research and application. This is Part IV of a series that started on November 6.



Elaine O’BrienElaine Tarantin O’Brien presented research about the connections between physical and mental well-being in Moving Well: Breathing the Wisdom of Positive Psychology. Her project outlines the many benefits of exercise and movement, including individual vitality as well as the cultivation of healthier families, schools, institutions and communities.

Click here to view Elaine O’Brien’s Poster.

What kindled your early curiosity and inspired you to pursue this research?

I was inspired by my passion in working in the health and fitness industry for the past 25 years combined with my new love: the possibility of thriving and flourishing via Positive Psychology. People today are living longer than ever before. It’s important for us to create exciting and effective programs for older adults now, for they will be us. It’s important not to just live longer, but to put life in our years!

Elaine O’Brien Fitness Class

What is the one thing you wish everyone could know about your project?

One objective was to further the theory and understanding of the importance of mind-body connections in positive lifespan well being through mindful exercise. In Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain, Ratey (2007) shows evidence that aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. Hundreds of studies show that physical activity increases cognitive functioning and supports learning, and we are just at the tip of the iceberg of this research. I’d love people to understand the benefit and necessity of applying positive movement in all domains of living as well as the need to match positive psychological energy to the desired outcomes.


Greg QuintingGreg Quinting presented Nobel Strengths: The Attributes of Scientists by CAVE, a Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations (CAVE) study of English language banquet speeches by Nobel laureates in chemistry. His research showed that the chemists, in general, are very optimistic and relay strong positive emotions, characteristics which may contribute to enhanced creativity, work engagement and satisfaction with life. Further comparisons showed that though optimistic, they also use healthy skepticism, defensive pessimism, and prudence in their approach to research, and tend to enjoy strong marriages and families. Analysis suggests that prudence and the closely-related strength of conscientiousness may be important to achievement, family life, health and longevity. His poster was inspired by his capstone, available from Scholarly Commons at the University of Pennsylvania.

Click here to view Greg Quinting’s poster.

Number of children for Chemistry Nobel Laureates.
Family Sizes of Nobel Laureates
Demographic Data for Chemistry Nobel Laureates: 90.2% of chemistry laureates between 1901 and 1972 were married; 84.2% had children. Fewer than five laureates were divorced. The average age at time of death was 76.1 years.

What kindled your early curiosity and most inspired you to pursue your research project?

First was learning about the CAVing of the presidential candidates’ convention speeches, which intrigued me—such analysis showed that pessimism-rumination strongly predicted the success or failure of a candidate being elected. I wondered what speeches by the Nobel scientists might reveal, particularly related to their attributions about positive events. I’ve long been concerned about the state of research and how research scientists are faring. The decline of U.S. students’ enrollment in Ph.D. science programs and decline in original, curiosity-driven research in the basic fields of physical science makes me wonder whether positive emotion may show some useful, important relationships to scientific excellence.

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel
Nobel medals awarded for Chemistry

What is the most important take-away you want to share about your research?

The results are still being fully analyzed so I’ll offer initial thoughts. Everyone ought to know that most highly creative, prodigious scientists are emotionally like most average, optimistic people. Perhaps most importantly, I hope that the results will encourage more young people to pursue science as a field in which they can practice creative strengths. And I hope that seasoned scientists will be inspired to stay in the field and mentor young people with hope and optimism, thereby enhancing innovation.



Quinting, G. (2007). Nobel strengths: The attributes of scientists by CAVE. Capstone for the MAPP program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ratey, J. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. . New York: Little, Brown and Company.


Elaine O’Brien leading an energy break in a meeting, supplied by Denise Clegg.
Nobel medals: http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/coll/pauling/bond/pictures/large-nobel-chemistry-medal.jpg
Alfred Nobel: Photograph in the public domain

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Senia 10 November 2008 - 3:04 pm

Hi Greg,
Not sure I can read your pie-chart well – are you saying 31% of chemistry Nobel Laureates had 2 children or had more than 8 children? Thanks,

Editor K.H.B. 10 November 2008 - 5:27 pm


I made the pie chart a little bigger, hoping to make it easier to see the colors. But here’s the verbal instructions: Start with the blue wedge at the top right. 5 laureates had 0 children. Then read clockwise. So the wedge you ask about is 2 children.


Christine Duvivier 10 November 2008 - 5:33 pm


I love your work on bringing to light the mind-body connection. Thanks for helping us all to remember the importance of physical activity for well-being — and I love your reference to the new brain pathways.

As you know, I’ve quoted you to a local town committee — to support walking-oriented initiatives for residents and teens. Thank you for pulling together all this wonderful research and articulating it in ways that people can use.
All best wishes,

Christine Duvivier 10 November 2008 - 5:37 pm


I am fascinated by your use of the CAVing technique– and was thinking of you as I watched the candidates in the final weeks. Until now, I hadn’t realized your interest in creativity and science (makes total sense but I only knew of your optimism/nobel prize interest). This interest of yours relates clearly to the examples and messages I give parents so please keep me posted as you learn more (and let me know if I have any info that would be helpful to you).

All the best,

Elaine O'Brien 11 November 2008 - 11:55 am

Dear Christine,
Thanks for writing, your compelling poster, and your symposium at the MAPP Summit! Denise Clegg did a great job showcasing the widely diverse applications of Positive Psychology among the wonderful posters. There is a great need for positive psychology interventions. Great job to all; I learned a lot and it was great seeing what you presented.

We are at an Inflection Point and it is a thrilling time to be here now at this awakening of Neuroplasticity and Hope in the world. It is a pleasure moving, learning, and sharing with you. Thank you and PPND.
Wishing you well,

Greg 14 November 2008 - 5:24 pm

Thanks for your comments, Christine. I will certainly keep you updated on new results and interpretations of those results. There is much that can be done to better understand any correlates that may exist between explanatory styles, positive emotions, creativity (among students, scientists, artists …) subjective wellbeing and physical health.

— Greg

Andrew Rosenthal 16 November 2008 - 9:43 pm

Denise — thanks for summarizing the MAPP meeting poster presentations. I didn’t have a chance to stop by the presentations, but now I almost feel like I did! The Q and A format is great!


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