Skinner's : An Anticipation of Positive Psychology?Walden Two: An Anticipation of Positive Psychology?

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Abstract

B. F. Skinner's, 1948 novel, Walden Two has some remarkable parallels to the growing Positive Psychology movement which emphasizes the promotion of subjective well being, the development of character strengths, and establishing positive institutions. Despite Skinner's reputation for neglecting emotion and subjective well being, one finds the opposite in the Walden Two community. Misunderstandings of Skinner's views have obscured the common themes between his ideas and Positive Psychology including positive use of leisure, value of positive emotions, and seeking happiness through engagement or gratification rather than through pleasure. Moreover, at Walden Two, the community develops Positive Psychology's character strengths such as creativity, persistence, humility, love, fairness, and communal gratitude. Particularly memorable was the shaping of self-regulation. The consequences of comparing Walden Two and Positive Psychology may be to shed some of the myths about contemporary behaviorism and Skinner's ideas, and to remind workers in Positive Psychology of the power of the empirically documented methods for building the automaticity of behavioral skills which may underlie character strengths advocated by Positive Psychology. Finally, this paper suggests the need for finding common ground in current psychology rather than emphasizing divisions.

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