Where is the 'person' in positive psychology?: A critical reflection on the lack of qualitative research in positive psychology Symposium Friday, June 28th, 2013 IPPA, Los Angeles Dr. Kate Hefferon (University of East London) Jacqui Synard (University of Ottawa) Dr. Lea Waters (University of Melbourne) Arabella Ashfield (English Institute of Sport) In the beginning… Positive psychology researchers criticised the humanistic discipline for never developing a ‘respectable empirical basis’ (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) Clear delineation between positive psychology and the humanistic movement via the use of the “scientific method” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) Repercussions of this separatist (post-positivistic) stance include: o A dearth of qualitative research o An over-use of surveys and low ecological experimental designs o A quantitative publication bias o Sterile messages of positive human functioning o An oversimplification of human behaviour and neglect of the individual (Langdridge, 2004e; Willig, 2008) Why qualitative? Main aims: To gain an in-depth, intricate understanding of an individual To understand experience (not cause and effect) To offer interpretation of text/narratives (not test predictions about variables) To look for participant defined meanings (not researcher imposed ones) To value contextual (historical, cultural and societal) influences on the data (rather than trying to reduce it) Acknowledge human messiness and complexity (Willig, 2008; Langdridge, 2004b, 2004e) Aim of Symposium Highlight the lack of qualitative research in positive psychology Demonstrate what qualitative research can bring to the subject area that is missing from a purely quantitative focus Each presenter will discuss their experience, process and outcomes utilising a different type of qualitative method Focus on the data produced through qualitative approaches which would have been overlooked through quantitative techniques Challenge the monopolization of quantitative research in practice and publication Highlight the possibilities of qualitative inquiry Symposium Conclusion Dr. Kate Hefferon (University of East London) Jacqui Synard (University of Ottawa) Dr. Lea Waters (University of Melbourne) Arabella Ashfield (English Institute of Sport) The humanists were on to something…. The humanistic movement introduced and solidified qualitative inquiry as an imperative paradigm to research human thought, behaviour and experience Qualitative inquiry is a viable paradigm for understanding the intricacies of optimal human functioning (positive psychology) Qualitative research can challenge current theories and research practice as well as develop conceptual clarity and formulate an overarching framework There are rigorous analytic processes researchers must go through according to method and methodology Ultimately, Qualitative research gives a “human side” to a “human discipline” The future of positive psychology: Emphasis on Quality AND Quantity Psychology as a whole, needs to focus on the unique individual and the unique factors and experiences that are individual for each person In order to understand the intricate and complex stories of the individuals we study, as well as provide a more holistic perception of the individual, positive psychology must: o Alter ‘either or thinking’ o Adopt a more integrative and pragmatic approach to research (more advanced/progressive discipline) o Use tools for the job at hand rather than based on methodolatry (method fetishism) o Reduce the monopoly of quantitative publication bias o Acknowledge and privilege “the how---the why---the process” Thank you for your time [email protected] www.katehefferon.com Brief History of Qualitative Research References and further reading Creswell, J. (2008). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (3rd ed). London: SAGE Publications. Elliott, R., Fischer, C.T., & Rennie, D.L. (1999). Evolving guidelines for publication of qualitative research studies in psychology and related fields. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38, 215-229. Langdridge, D. (2004). Introduction to research methods and data analysis in psychology. London: Pearson Education. Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. and Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method, Research. London: Sage. Smith, J.A., & Osborn, M. (2008). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In J.A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. (2nd ed., pp.53-80). London: Sage Willig, C. (2008). Introducing qualitative research in psychology: Adventures in theory and method. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. Yardley, L. (2000). Dilemmas in qualitative research. Psychology and Health, 15, 215-228.