Martin Seligman: Biography and Theories in Positive Psychology

Today, the development and application of positive psychology is in full swing as a branch of psychology charged with the scientific study of the optimal functioning of human beings and the development of their potential and well-being, in search of their happiness.

One of the pioneers in the development of this type of psychology is Martin Seligman, who is also widely known for his studies of depression and the concept of learned helplessness. This author has made, and in fact continues to make, multiple contributions to the field of psychology throughout his life. This is why in this article we will review the biography of Martin Seligman.

    Brief biography of Martin Seligman

    This well-known author has played an important role in the study of disorders such as depression and, more recently, that of well-being and happiness. Below we will see a brief summary of Steps of his life, his theories and his major contributions to psychology.

    Birth and academic training

    Martin Elias Peter Seligman was born on August 12, 1942 in the state of Albany in New York in the United States. Albany would study during elementary and secondary education. After completing this, he enrolled at Princeton University to pursue a philosophy degree in 1960.

    One graduated in 1964, doing so with maximum accolades with the title Summa cum laude. After that, he would receive offers from several universities to continue his studies with them, choosing the author from the University of Pennsylvania. He studied animal psychology, obtaining a doctorate in psychology in 1967.

    Seligman then embarked on a fruitful career as a researcher.

      Professional performance and contributions to psychology

      Initially, Martin Seligman worked as an assistant professor at Cornell University, then in Pennsylvania, where he would become a professor of psychology. In 1980, he was appointed director of the clinical training program at the latter university, working for years in the treatment and research of depression and other disorders. Throughout his career, he made important contributions that led to him being widely recognized and receiving numerous awards.

      However, the author would be aware that clinical psychology in general tends to focus only on the aspects which generate the dysfunction and the suffering of the person and to treat them, there is no optimistic vision focused on strengthening the elements that generate well-being. In 1990, the researcher changed his career to focus on the study of happiness.

      On the other hand, Seligman developed various theories and contributions to the world of psychology. Let’s see what they were.

      About depression

      Throughout his years of study, he was influenced by one of his teachers, the famous psychologist Aaron Beck, from whom he would draw inspiration to study the functioning of depressive disorder.

      According to his theory of depression, this condition is a consequence, in part, of a problem of perception of reality, related to the feeling of loss of control and with how causes are attributed to positive or negative experiences: The negatives seem to be caused by oneself, and the positives are the result of chance and the effects of others. This idea is related to attribution theories.

      Learned helplessness

      After receiving his doctorate in 1967, he began his research at the University of Pennsylvania. I would start doing research with animals, especially dogs, Under a paradigm based on operant conditioning.

      During these experiments, in which electrical stimulation was used, Seligman was able to observe how animals subjected to a previous experience in which they could not escape aversive stimulation stopped trying to do so even when they did. were doing at other times. .

      these experiences led to the birth of the learned helplessness theory, Which would be associated with the absence of activity specific to depressed subjects: the depressed subject has learned that his performance does not change events and has no results, so he stops acting.

      This theory would be an important contribution which would allow progress in the generation of explanatory theories of the different aspects of depression and of work focused on the fight against impotence. He also participated in the creation of several methods to treat this disorder at the base of the confrontation and changing negative automatic thoughts.

        Presidency of the APA and the birth of positive psychology

        In the year 1996 Martin Seligman was named president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), A presidency which would provide the opportunity to open up new avenues of research and work for this science. His main objective during his tenure was to unite theoretical and practical knowledge.

        In 1998, he proposed the search for a more positive psychology, not so focused only on the pathological aspects of the psyche and behavior and that he sought to study the aspects that make us feel well-being and happiness. Positive psychology is said to be based on the year 2000 as a scientific study of optimal human functioning, which has since helped develop, and the character’s manual virtues and strengths. Another relevant initiative is the prevention of war or ethnopolitical conflicts.

        in 2002 he developed the theory of true happiness, In which he proposed the development of his own strengths and characteristics to achieve this. In 2003, the MA in Applied Positive Psychology was established under his supervision. Beginning in 2005, he was appointed director of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

        In 2010, he reformulated his theory of true happiness, appearing the theory of well-being and the PERMA model, in which he studies what people choose to increase their level of well-being, including positive emotions, positive relationships, involvement, meaning and engagement.

          current events

          In recent years, Martin Seligman has produced numerous publications (such as Flourish, in 2011) and given various conferences.

          He currently continues, at the age of 75, as Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (specifically with the title of Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology). He is also director of the Master in Applied Positive Psychology and continues to work as a consultant in different organizations.

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