Science of Well-Being

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Level: University

Subject: Philosophy, Science

Note: Syllabus for beginning or upper-level course on the science of well-being

Submitted by: Todd Kashdan


Course Description

What contributes to satisfying, engaging, and meaningful living? What conditions allow people, couples, organizations, and countries to flourish? We will address these questions by examining and interpreting the latest research in psychology and neuroscience on well-being, character strengths, and relationships. Emphasis will be placed on the ways that scientists generate hypotheses regarding the nature of positive psychological processes and the methods by which these ideas are tested.

Scientific Approach

We approach each topic in this class as scientists. The application of science to questions regarding well-being and character strengths carries with it the implicit assumption that these areas of human functioning can be empirically examined to develop a systematic body of knowledge. Social scientists adopt an attitude of open-minded skepticism. We are going to discuss challenging topics including definitions and theoretical models of happiness, the nature of love and creativity, personal growth through adversity, the value of religiosity, etc. To benefit from this class, you will have to balance 1) personal beliefs you already acquired about positive experiences, traits, and institutions and 2) the willingness to be open, explore, and experiment with new ideas and experiences.

Book and Readings

Sheldon, K., Kashdan, T.B., & Steger, M.F. (2011) (Eds.). Designing positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. Oxford University Press. (referred to as DPP under assignments)


Please see the PDF for a sample assignment schedule

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