Home All Positive Psychology Researcher List: Invitation to Use and Contribute

Positive Psychology Researcher List: Invitation to Use and Contribute

written by Seph Fontane Pennock and Lisa Sansom 22 September 2014

Seph Fontane Pennock is a Netherlands-based positive psychology practitioner. He founded the Positive Psychology Program, which aims to facilitate integration of the scientific and practical sides of positive psychology. Full bio. Seph's solo articles are here.

Lisa Sansom, MAPP '10, is the owner of LVS Consulting, an independent consulting firm that helps to build positive organizations. Lisa provide services such as individual and leadership coaching, team facilitation, effective communications training, Appreciative Inquiry and change management consulting. Full Bio. Lisa's solo articles are here.

Articles by Lisa and Seph together are here.

You are invited to visit Positive Psychology Researchers: Top Influencer’s Database and then submit your ideas for names to add.

Lisa’s story:

The Positive Psychology Researchers list started as a side project. When I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program in 2010, I felt disconnected from my class, but also from the research. Love of Learning is a top strength of mine, and I had spent 8 glorious, stimulating months learning about the science of positive psychology plus a few more months in Capstone creation. Then it felt like it was over. However, it was also a quieter time (no more commuting to Philadelphia every 3 weeks!) and so I took stock of the material I had learned and started to organize it.

Reading and writing positive psychology

   Reading and writing
   for MAPP Semester 1
   courtesy of Marge Dukes

It occurred to me that if I created a spreadsheet with the top researchers in the field, then it would be easier for me to find the material I wanted when I wanted it. Most researchers have very generous websites with extensive information, and sometimes copies of their research articles, and so a researcher name, institution, subject area and website was all I really needed.

With all the ways to share information online, it seemed a no-brainer that I would share this with others, and so I created a google doc. My initial hope was that the community would come together and add names, but I didn’t have enough social media reach, and soon this side project drifted off my radar. Occasionally, I would offer it to someone, but it never really took off, that is, until I met Seph Fontane Pennock and his Positive Psychology Program site.

Seph’s story:

It was only about a year ago that I started the website PositivePsychologyProgram.com. From former undertakings, I’ve learned that blogging about a certain subject is one of the best ways to master it.

My initial goal with the website was to create the online resource that I had been looking for when I first took an interest into positive psychology, about 5 years ago. I must have stumbled across a hundred webpages about positive psychology back then, mostly from universities and educational institutions. The thing that struck me most was that all of these webpages were essentially offering so little value. A typical website would have a very brief introduction to the field of positive psychology, mention something about their organization and the program that they were offering and some information on the coordinators of the program. Boring!

Since I was an eager student myself back then (still am), I just knew that this wasn’t the kind of information that people were hoping to find after performing a search on Google. They wanted lists, overviews, summaries, awesome visuals, as well as multiple points of view discussing the most important courses, books, research, and experts within the field. God knows I wanted that.

Years went by and I developed an interest in blogging, websites, and reaching out to people online. It was only last year that I put two and two together and decided to build up exactly that which I had been seeking for so long: a one-stop positive psychology resource. PositivePsychologyProgram.com was born.

About a month after I launched the website, people from all over the world already started sending in emails asking if they could somehow contribute or take part, or simply thanking me for the information on the site. I have saved some of these emails because they mean so much to me. As soon as I forget why I’m spending so much time on this project without any sort of compensation in the traditional sense, I just read back some of these emails, and I’m all fired up to go at it again. If last year has taught me anything, it would be that even the tiniest compliment can have such an enormous impact. It’s unbelievable. You should try it.

Anyway, I met Lisa Sansom via Twitter, I believe. I noticed that she just takes up any opportunity that comes along to provide value and meaning to other people’s lives, no matter how busy she is. It’s no coincidence that we decided to join forces and put together a webpage based on the list of researchers that Lisa had already built up. Practitioners, coaches, researchers, students, and teachers from all over the world can use to look up any researcher and his or her topic within the field of positive psychology.

The List

The list started with about 70 researchers and thanks to the wide reach of Seph’s website and his focused dedication, as well as promoting the list on select Facebook and LinkedIn groups, the number of contributions is growing and we hope eventually that this list will include the top names in all sub-disciplines of positive psychology (e.g. education, health, business, policy) from around the globe. We made the decision to put the list “out there” as a starter, knowing it was not perfect or complete, because there was no way that the two of us working alone could ever get it to the level we wanted.

What makes for a positive psychology researcher?

There are two important components to this question: what is positive psychology, and what is a researcher?

The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania has a solid definition of positive psychology. It says “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”

What is important for us in this definition is that the researcher is using a scientific approach to his/her research, and that the area of research has the potential to increase human flourishing, or is an area commonly understood to be “positive” (although we know that there is pretty much always a downside to even the most positive attributes…)

Yes, it’s a little vague and subject to judgment. Generally, we have found that there is a consensus and if we are unsure, we are asking the list nominee for their own insights into their field and do they consider it to fall under the umbrella of positive psychology. So far, we trust in their honesty and integrity!

What makes for a researcher? We have also discussed this question, and it is also a little vague and open to interpretation. One could easily say that a researcher is one who does research, but this doesn’t help much. Some other criteria that we have considered include:

  • Does this individual publish in peer-reviewed journals, and is he or she referenced in other research articles?
  • Does this individual refer to him/herself as a researcher?
  • Does this individual have a research lab where graduate students and/or assistants and/or employees contribute to the research?
  • Is this individual affiliated with an organization or educational institution that has an ethical review board that would govern and approve such human subject research?
  • Is this individual considered by others to be a researcher in the positive psychology field?
  • Is this individual, through his/her work (and/or the work of his/her lab), advancing the scientific knowledge in the positive psychology field?

As you can see, this is all a work in progress.

Truly, this is a resource that belongs to the community of people who interested in the field of positive psychology. We continue to look for more names and ideas to strengthen the list, and our hope is to keep it updated on a regular basis as the field grows. So far, response to this resource has been positive and we thank those who have already submitted more researcher names and websites for inclusion.

The contributions of the community are critical to the success and meaningfulness of this list. We encourage you to have a look, join in the discussion, and help make this list an important part of bringing positive psychology to the world.

Thank you.

Photo Credit: via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Picture of reading and writing for MAPP semester 1 courtesy of Marge Dukes
Like! courtesy of infocux Technologies
Poster session courtesy of Mild Mannered Photographer

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Christiane Arrivillaga 25 September 2014 - 7:59 am

What an amazing project! It’s great to see people that are so committed, not only to the study of Positive Psychology, but to its practice. Building this list, website and community, in such an accessible yet scientific way is something that was definitely needed. Congrats guys!!

Seph Fontane Pennock 25 September 2014 - 12:53 pm

Thank you Christiane, that’s really kind of you!

I feel so incredibly privileged to meet many inspiring people from all over the world who share a sincere interest in positive psychology and are so generous in sharing their time and knowledge. Without your contributions, improvements, and words of encouragement, this resource page would have remained merely a list like any other. You have made it come alive so that it can be a valuable resource for years to come.

It goes to show that positive psychology practitioners practice as they preach.



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