Martin Seligman

Martin E. P. "Marty" Seligman (born August 12, 1942) is an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books. His theory of "learned helplessness" is widely respected among scientific psychologists.[1]

According to Haggbloom et al.'s study of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, Seligman was the 13th most frequently cited psychologist in introductory psychology textbooks throughout the century, as well as the 31st most eminent overall.[2]

Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. He is the director of the university's Positive Psychology Center.[3]Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association by the widest margin in its history and served in that capacity during the 1998 term.[4] He is the founding editor-in-chief of Prevention and Treatment Magazine (the APA electronic journal) and is on the board of advisers of Parents magazine.

Seligman has written about positive psychology topics such as The Optimistic Child, Child's Play, Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, and Flourish.


Early life and education

Seligman was born in Albany, New York. He earned a bachelors degree at Princeton University in 1964, graduating Summa Cum Laude (Philosophy). He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology at University of Pennsylvania in 1967.

Learned helplessness

Seligman's foundational experiments and theory of "learned helplessness" began at University of Pennsylvania in 1967, as an extension of his interest in depression. Quite by accident, Seligman and colleagues discovered that the conditioning of dogs led to outcomes that were opposite to the predictions of B.F. Skinner's behaviorism, then a leading psychological theory.[5]

Seligman developed the theory further, finding learned helplessness to be a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to act or behave helplessly in a particular situation — usually after experiencing some inability to avoid an adverse situation — even when it actually has the power to change its unpleasant or even harmful circumstance. Seligman saw a similarity with severely depressed patients, and argued that clinical depression and related mental illnesses result in part from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[6]

According to author Jane Mayer,[7] Seligman gave a talk at the Navy SERE school in San Diego in 2002, which he said was a three-hour talk on helping US soldiers to resist torture, based on his understanding of learned helplessness.

Positive psychology

Seligman worked with Christopher Peterson to create the what they describe as a 'positive' counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While the DSM focuses on what can go wrong, Character Strengths and Virtues is designed to look at what can go right. In their research they looked across cultures and across millennia to attempt to distill a manageable list of virtues that have been highly valued from ancient China and India, through Greece and Rome, to contemporary Western cultures. Their list includes six character strengths: wisdom/knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each of these has perhaps a half-dozen sub-entries; for instance, temperance includes forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation.[8] One of their key points is that they do not believe that there is a hierarchy for the six virtues; no one is more fundamental than or a precursor to the others.

Quite recently at the time of typing (July 2011), Martin Seligman has encouraged David Cameron to look into well-being as well as financial wealth in ways of assessing the posterity of a nation. On July 6, 2011, he appeared on Newsnight and was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman about his ideas and his interest in the concept of well-being.

While presenting "Flourish" to the Royal Society of Arts,[9] Seligman articulated an account of the good life, which consisted of five elements:

  • P(ositive) emotion - tunable by writing down, every day at bed time, three things that went well, and why
  • E(ngagement) - tunable by preferentially using one's highest strengths to perform the tasks which one would perform anyway
  • R(elationships) - tunable, but not in a way that can be explained briefly; listen to timestamp 15:12 and following of the audio
  • M(eaning) - belonging to and serving something bigger than one's self
  • A(chievement) - determination is known to count for more than IQ

MAPP program

The Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania was established under the leadership of Seligman as the first educational initiative of the Positive Psychology Center in 2003.

On "conversion/reparative" therapy for changing homosexuality

In 1966, Martin E.P. Seligman reported that, while using aversion therapy to try to change gay men's sexual orientation to heterosexual was controversial, in some instances, the process "worked surprisingly well", with up to 50% of men subjected to such therapy not acting on their homosexual urges. These results produced what Seligman described as "a great burst of enthusiasm about changing homosexuality that swept over the therapeutic community" after the results were reported in 1966. However, Seligman notes that the findings were later demonstrated to be flawed: most of the men treated with aversion therapy who did in fact stop homosexual behavior were actually bisexual. Among men with an exclusive or near-exclusive homosexual orientation, aversion therapy was far less successful.[10]

Personal life

According to an interview for his electronic journal Prevention and Treatment Seligman said magenta was his favorite color because of the amazing calming effects of the color on the human body. He plays bridge, and finished second in one of the three major North American pair championships, the Blue Ribbon Pairs (1998), and has won over 50 regional championships.[11] He has seven children, four grandchildren and three dogs, Rosie, Lily, and Rollo.

Seligman was inspired by the work of the psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck at the University of Pennsylvania in refining his own cognitive techniques and exercises.[12]


  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-0752-7 (Paperback reprint edition, W.H. Freeman, 1992, ISBN 0-7167-2328-X)
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-671-01911-2 (Paperback reprint edition, Penguin Books, 1998; reissue edition, Free Press, 1998)
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (1993). What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41024-4 (Paperback reprint edition, Ballantine Books, 1995, ISBN 0-449-90971-9
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (1996). The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression & Build Lifelong Resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin. (Paperback edition, Harper Paperbacks, 1996, ISBN 0-06-097709-4
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-2297-0 (Paperback edition, Free Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7432-2298-9)
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). '"Can Happiness be Taught?". Daedalus, Spring 2004.
  • Peterson, Christopher, & Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 987-0-19-516701-6
  • Seligman, Martin E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4391-9075-3


  1. ^ Bower, Gordon H. (1981). The psychology of learning and motivation: advances in research and theory‎. Academic Press, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 30. Retrieved 2010-02-05.  "The most popular theoretical interpretation of the learned helplessness phenomenon to date is that of Seligman (1975) and Maier and Seligman (1976)."
  2. ^ Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). "The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century". Review of General Psychology, Vol. 6, No. 2, 139–15.
  3. ^ Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. ^ List of APA Presidents
  5. ^ Seligman, M.E.P. and Maier, S.F. (1967). "Failure to escape traumatic shock". Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 1–9; Overmier, J. B. and Seligman, M.E.P. (1967). "Effects of inescapable shock upon subsequent escape and avoidance responding". Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 63, 28–33.
  6. ^ Seligman, M.E.P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2328-X
  7. ^ Horton, Scott (14 July 2008). "Six Questions for Jane Mayer, Author of The Dark Side". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-04. "Seligman said his talk was focused on how to help U.S. soldiers resist torture — not on how to breakdown resistance in detainees. ... Mitchell has denied that these theories guided his and the CIA's use" 
  8. ^ Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Harrington, S., Peterson, C., Park, N., Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). "Character strengths in the United Kingdom: The VIA Inventory of strengths" Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 341-351.
  9. ^ Flourish
  10. ^ Seligman, Martin E. P. (1993). What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41024-4 (Paperback reprint edition, Ballantine Books, 1995, pp. 156-157. ISBN 0-449-90971-9
  11. ^ Francis, Henry G., Editor-in-Chief; Truscott, Alan F., Executive Editor; Francis, Dorthy A., Editor, Sixth Edition (2001). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge (6th ed.). Memphis, TN: American Contract Bridge League. pp. 826 (plus 60 page Bibliography). ISBN 0-943855-44-6. OCLC 49606900.  Page 732.
  12. ^ Hirtz, Rob, "Martin Seligman's Journey: from Learned Helplessness to Learned Happiness", The Pennsylvania Gazette, The University of Pennsylvania, January/February 1999.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Martin Seligman — Martin Seligman, à droite, avec un militaire durant un cours destiné aux soldats intitulé « programme complet de remise en forme pour les soldats esprits forts, corps forts » Martin E. P. Seligman (né le 12 août 1942) est un psychologue …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Martin Seligman — Martin E. P. Seligman (* 12. August 1942 in Albany (New York)) ist ein US amerikanischer Psychologe. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Wirken 2 Werke (Auswahl) 3 Weblinks 4 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Martin Seligman — Martin E.P. Seligman es un psicólogo y escritor norteamericano. Se le conoce principalmente por sus experimentos sobre la indefensión aprendida y su relación con la depresión. En los últimos años se le conoce igualmente por su trabajo e… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Seligman — ist der Name folgender Personen: Arthur Seligman (1873–1933), US amerikanischer Politiker Charles Gabriel Seligman (1873–1940), britischer Ethnologe Joseph Seligman (1819–1880), US amerikanischer Bankier und Geschäftsmann Martin Seligman (* 1942) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Martin Fleisher — Contents 1 Bridge career 2 Personal 3 Bridge accomplishments 3.1 …   Wikipedia

  • Martin Zenhäusern — (* 20. Januar 1960 in Unterbäch, Kanton Wallis) ist ein Schweizer Autor von Managementliteratur, ehemaliger Pressesprecher der CVP Wallis und Gründer der PR Agentur Zenhäusern Partner AG in Zürich, Schweiz. Er ist als Kommunikationsexperte,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Matthew Seligman — is an English bassist who took part of the new wave scene in the 1970s and the 1980s, best known as a member of the Soft Boys.[1] Biography Born in Pendaya, Cyprus, he grew up in Wimbledon, England where he still lives. Influenced by Paul… …   Wikipedia

  • Селигман Мартин / Seligman, Martin Е. Р. — (р. 1942). Селигман переформулировал модель беспомощности, утверждая, что именно атрибуции определяют проявление беспомощности …   Психологическая энциклопедия

  • Positive psychology — is a recent branch of psychology that studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Positive psychologists seek to find and nurture genius and talent, and to make normal life more fullfilling, not to cure… …   Wikipedia

  • Gelernte Hilflosigkeit — Erlernte Hilflosigkeit bezeichnet das Phänomen, dass Menschen und Tiere in Folge von Erfahrungen der Hilf oder Machtlosigkeit ihr Verhaltensrepertoire dahingehend einengen, dass sie negative Zustände nicht mehr abstellen, obwohl sie es (von außen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.