The 12 Psychologists Who Have Changed The Way We Teach

Here at Aviva, we owe a lot to a lot of brilliant scholars.

Positive psychology has come a long way since its beginnings after World War II when researchers studied the minority of veterans who were not as adversely affected psychologically by the horrors of war as their peers.

Today, we are lucky to benefit from decades of research by the passionate, intelligent positive psychologists who preceded us. Without their work and contributions, the field of positive psychology would not be what it is today. So, to show our gratitude, we’ve put together a list of some of the individuals who have most profoundly impacted us.


1) William James

William-James-1910Many people refer to him as the “Father of American Psychology” and he was one of the founders of functional psychology, arguing that in order to thoroughly study a person’s optimal functioning, one has understand how they subjectively experience something.





2) Abraham Maslow

Psychologist Abraham Maslow was a pioneer in positive psychology, envisioning what was right with his clients, rather than what was wrong.The term “positive psychology” originated with Maslow, who first coined it in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, did not like how psychology concerned itself mostly with disorder and dysfunction, arguing that it did not have an accurate understanding of human potential. He emphasized how psychology successfully shows our negative side by revealing much about our illnesses and shortcomings, but not enough on our virtues or aspirations.


3) Ellen Langer

453647304_1280x720Langer played a big part in the development of positive psychology and is considered by many to be the Mother of Mindfulness. She was a professor at Harvard and her studies focused on the illusion of control, decision-making, aging, and mindfulness theory. Her pioneering research in the positive psychology and mindfulness transformed the field.



4) Martin Seligman

Martin-Seligman-PhotoMartin Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association in the year 1998 and he was well known in the field of psychology for his work on learned helplessness. At the turn of the millennium, he adopted the term “positive psychology” and it became his primary focus his presidency. Many see him as the father of contemporary positive psychology.




5) Christopher Peterson

CPetersonChristopher Peterson was the science director of the VIA Institute on Character and was very influential in the development of character development and virtues. He is noted for his work in the study of optimism, health, character, and well being.





6) Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi

MikeC.SmilingMihaly Czikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist who coined the term Flow. His theory is that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.





7) Ed Diener

ed dienerEarning the nickname Dr. Happiness, Ed Diener has been a big influence on the field of positive psychology. He has spent many years researching happiness, the measurement of well being, the influence of temperament and personality on well-being, theories of well-being, income and well-being, and cultural influences on well-being.





8) Tal Ben Shahar

lossless-page1-220px-Tal_Ben_Shahar.tifTal Ben Shahar is currently a leader in the field of positive psychology. He taught at Harvard University where his classes on positive psychology and the psychology of leadership were among the most popular courses in the university’s history. He writes and lectures on diverse topics including leadership, education, ethics, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, and mindfulness.





9) Sonja Lyubromirsky

sonjaMost noted for her 12 intentional activities to increase happiness, Sonja Lyubromirsky, has been able to prove that there is a set point theory of happiness through her research. This theory states that many of our personality factors are genetically predetermined, including happiness, and that this represents as much as 50% of our set point of happiness. However, her research also shows that 40% of our happiness is determined by intentional activities and the remaining 10% is circumstantial.





10) Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson, psychology at the University of North CarolinaBarbara Fredrickson is known in the field of positive psychology for her Broaden and Build theory of positive emotions. Her research demonstrates that the ratio of three positive emotions to one potentially negative emotion is the standard threshold to achieve happiness.




11) Carol Dweck

Carol2_0Carol Dweck’s research has focused on why some people succeed and how to foster success in others. She is known in the field of Positive Psychology for her work on Mindset and the difference between “fixed vs. growth” mindset.






12) Angela Duckworth

160429_BOOKS_grit-author.jpg.CROP.article250-mediumThe founder and scientific director of an educational nonprofit called Character Lab where character strengths are researched, Angela Duckworth is most noted in the field of positive psychology for her research on grit and self-control.





To all, we give thanks and sincerely express a tremendous amount of gratitude for all of your hard work and contribution to the field of positive psychology! Without the work of the psychologists listed here, and many others, the Aviva curriculum would not be possible.


And if you’d like to learn more about these and other amazing scholars in the field, check out the Database of Positive Psychology Researchers from the Positive Psychology Program.