Did Coke Hijack Positive Psychology?

Did Coke Hijack Positive Psychology?

by David Van Nuys for Psychology Today

I hope I got your attention with this title. Of course, “hijack” is too strong a term and also too pejorative. My real point is that it is clear to me advertising executives at Coca Cola and a number of other major brands have been paying close attention to the research generated by the positive psychology movement.

I tend to notice such things because I’m not only a psychologist but also a marketing research consultant.

Because of my involvement in both fields, I’ve been particularly interested in a trend that has been revolutionizing psychology in recent years. I’m referring here to the birth of Positive Psychology, which has spawned a large body of both research and practice devoted to understanding and enhancing human happiness.

Positive Psychology was officially “born” at the annual American Psychological Association conference in 1998 during Dr. Martin Seligman’s inaugural address as association president. Dr. Seligman, already well-known for his pioneering work on the subject of learned helplessness, and later, on optimism, declared that psychology had too long focused on pathology, and that the time had come for an empirical study of human strengths and human happiness.

There was a similar rallying cry at least 40 years earlier by humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Viktor Frankl and others to refocus psychology on healthy human functioning. Their ideas, rooted in existential philosophy, led to what became known as “the human potential movement,” and in many ways, these ideas have been absorbed into the larger culture.

Interestingly, Seligman made no mention of these important forerunners. Presumably, he wanted to distance Positive Psychology from the human potential movement, which had been criticized for its excesses and tarred with the brush of narcissism. More importantly, Seligman wanted to establish Positive Psychology on a firm scientific foundation. In this regard, he has certainly succeeded.

In just 12 years, the Positive Psychology movement has generated 64,000 research studies, 2 academic journals, and an international professional association. Additional resonance comes from the current zeitgeist in which we’ve seen an explosion of popular interest in activities such as yoga and meditation, as well as a proliferation of books about happiness…

…keep reading about marketing, happiness and positive psychology HERE