AC4P with Dr. Scott Geller 012 | Positive Psychology & Behavioral Science Part 1

Dr. Geller has been talking about using the science of behavior in conjunction with positive psychology for some time. Now it is your turn to connect the two! Recently, on social media, a book by Dr. Martin Seligman was posted and the question was asked if anyone uses these practices? I won't give the answer away, but I will pose some questions:

Can you operationally define PERMA? How could you use this in your personal and professional life? Can you incorporate Emotional Intelligence into your practices? Do these practices fit within our scope of practice and ethical code?

Come back in two weeks to hear Dr. Geller dive deeper into emotional intelligence and why it is SO important!

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Dr. Scott Geller (00:23):

So let's talk about positive psychology. The first question we would ask is, are you happy? Are you happy? And then yes or no. What makes you happy now? It's interesting that psychologists typically don't come don't study the positive side of life. I mean, we study distress, we study emotional disorders, we study the negative side. But about 20 years ago, Martin Seligman said, why don't we study the positive side? Why don't we try to figure out what makes people happy? And he was president of APA in 1998, and he really started this movement of empirically studying happiness. And so let's talk about happiness again. What makes you happy? And most of us can, can relate to what Marty Seligman has found. I mean, our common sense once we put the cards on the table, our common sense says, yeah, okay. That's what makes me happy.

Dr. Scott Geller (01:38):

So it's PERMA P E R M A. That's the acronym that Seligman, And by the way, he has a number of colleagues who have, who have studied happiness and continue to do so. I mean, in fact, I'm teaching a course right now called positive psychology. And we started out first lecture was PERMA P E R M A. So let's define what, what those letters mean. And again, your common sense will say, I knew that like P, P is positive emotions. Of course, when we feel good, we have positive effect. I mean, that influences happiness. E is engagement. Are you engaged? Have you ever gotten so involved in a task that time just flew by, you miss dinner? I mean, you just were engaged now. It's interesting that psychologists call that intrinsic reinforcement natural consequences for what we're doing. Now, the positive psychology people don't talk that way, but we talk that way. In fact, as we talk about this, I want you to think about really how behavioral science, applied behavioral science, is very much related to positive psychology. As we know, BF Skinner, one of the focus on positive consequences rather than negative consequences. And from my perspective, that's positive psychology. All right. So P is positive emotion E engagement, which we could call intrinsic consequences, intrinsic reinforces. P E R. We all know what R means relationships. And now we're all in this, in this home-bound situation with the pandemic, and we're missing relationships, even introverts like me. I still miss relationships. You know, I miss talking to groups and looking at their faces and interacting that's R for relationship. P E R M meaningfulness. To what extent is your life, or is what you're doing viewed perceived by you as meaningful, you know, useful.

Dr. Scott Geller (04:07):

And the last one is A of PERMA and that's achievement. When we're achieving. When we feel a sense of accomplishment, the term I like to use is success seeking versus failure avoiding. So the point is that's positive psychology. And what I find so intriguing by this is that we don't study that side of the coin. Well, we don't many people don't, but Marty Seligman and his colleagues have in fact, Seligman has developed a course for the army where he prepares soldiers to handle their stressors through positive psychology. Here's an interesting point. You've all heard the term post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Okay. It's interesting. Let's flip the coin. What about post-traumatic growth? Have you ever had a negative event actually enabled you to grow, enable you to appreciate the positive side of life? So, in fact, that's an interesting exercise and, and Martin Seligman does this with his classes.

Dr. Scott Geller (05:25):

They actually have a course. You can get a master's degree in positive psychology at Penn, University of Pennsylvania. And so just like we have degrees in ABA, you can get a degree in positive psychology. And I like to think that those two are quite connected. Again, behavioral scientists want to be positive. Here's another term that we talk about, optimism, looking on the bright side, those are all terminology on positive psychology. So again, it's interesting to study what makes us happy. And by the way, they've determined a number of things, but it can be very much summarized by the acronym PERMA.

Shauna Costello (06:11):

Well, and a lot of people will be like, when they're listening to this, they're going to, I can already imagine a lot of behavioral scientists on here listening to this being like, Oh, those are all mentalistic, you have to describe those differently. And it's like, well, you can from even just from listening to you talk, you can very easily put all of the letters in the PERMA acronym, into behavioral terms, into how we study and how we look at behavior. And I think that this is one thing that language is something that behavioral scientists they do need to work on and being able to make it more appealing to other individuals. So I think that this positive psychology and PERMA is something that behavioral scientists and they should really be interested and it could very easily bring into their practice As well.

Dr. Scott Geller (07:11):

Let me explain how we are connecting positive psychology with behavioral science. For example, it's been found that gratitude is a positive experience, not only receiving gratitude and again, you're right, that's a mentalist kind of term, but it's also behavioral. We know what gratitude is. We can define gratitude by a certain behavior, and it's been determined that we feel better when giving gratitude and when receiving gratitude. So what we have been doing on our campus for over a year is studying gratitude in this way. For example, we study how many students and faculty, when they cross the street and the pedestrian crosswalk, thank the driver, just wave their hand and thank the driver. And to our surprise, that number is low. I'm talking less than 7%. And so what I'm saying is what if we can increase the number of pedestrians just waving "thank you."

Dr. Scott Geller (08:17):

Not only will that be positive for the driver, but it's positive for the giver. So in fact, we put signs at the crosswalks that said, give a wave of thanks. And lo and behold, we increased it by 20 percentage points. We got it up to 25. In fact, in some cases, 40% actually waved. But again, the point is, how do we increase gratitude? Again that's bringing behavioral science. Another project we had is we have thank you cards and the thank you card says, "thank you for actively caring" and students after class, take up half of the thank you card. The bottom by the way, the bottom half is for data. So the students record how do they feel? How did the professor feel? After class they take their tthank you card and they give it to the professor and they thank them for the lecture.

Dr. Scott Geller (09:19):

We we've been doing this for like almost two years now. And the response is amazing. The students say they were nervous. You know, this is something they don't typically do, but that professor, when they received this, by the way the thank you card is customized to Virginia tech we have our school colors on it, and they received this and the big smile. And again, the data suggested that the students feel so much better after giving the thank-you card. So there's some reluctance, this is unusual behavior, but when they do the behavior, wow, they're feeling better. So again, that's how we use behavioral science to increase behaviors that we know enables people to feel better.

Shauna Costello (10:12):

Well, and one book that I was lucky enough to have you send me was your 50 lessons book. And in there you talk, one of the lessons is the power of emotional intelligence. And when we were talking before you were talking about how emotional intelligence really has a lot to do with this as well. So, I mean, what is emotional intelligence for some of the people who might not have had a lot of background in that?

Dr. Scott Geller (10:43):

Well, you know, that's, that's a powerful word, emotional intelligence and one way to say it is, do you have control over your emotions? You know, positive emotions, negative emotions, and part of Dr. Seligman's class is to help the soldiers, for example, when he teaches this to the army, help them control their emotions. I mean, in his book, by the way, his book is called his latest book published the actually a decade ago is called flourishing, and flourishing. He is essentially the behavior of positive psychology. So again, teaching soldiers, how to appreciate the positive side?

Shauna Costello (11:27):

You can probably tell Dr. Scott Geller, isn't done talking about emotional intelligence, but I want to give you some incentive to come back in a couple of weeks. And on top of some incentive, I want to give you a little bit of homework. So let's work on putting PERMA into behavioral terms and also listing some ideas of how you can use this in your everyday practices. Not only personal, but professional life as well. How can we use this with our clients and colleagues? And how do you think that you can incorporate emotional intelligence in your practices? Recently, I've been scouring the social media pages, and I was reading a post regarding a book that was published by Martin Seligman. So what do you think about these practices so far? What do you think about this connection between positive psychology and behavioral science are these practices that fit into our scope of practice and if yes, how so? So make sure you come back in two weeks to hear Dr. Geller dive deeper into emotional intelligence and decide if we should be using it in our practices.

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