Positive Consequences: The Impact of an Undergraduate Course on Positive Psychology


With the rise of positive psychology and burgeoning evidence base, graduate and undergraduate institutions are now teaching positive psychology as an academic course. Little is known however about its effects. Therefore, the current study sought to develop a positive psychology course conceptually grounded in theory, while also exploring the extent to which the course impacted student well-being. The 25 students enrolled in the class, and a second group of 26 students who were enrolled in alternative psychology course elective (controls), completed a battery of well-being measures prior to taking the course, upon completion of the course and at a four-month follow-up. Responses were compared both between- and within-groups and results were promising as significant improvements on a number of measures were found for the intervention group but not for the control group. The implications and limitations of the current research are discussed.

Share and Cite:

Kleinman, K. , Asselin, C. & Henriques, G. (2014). Positive Consequences: The Impact of an Undergraduate Course on Positive Psychology. Psychology, 5, 2033-2045. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.518206.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] American College Health Association. American College Health Association National College Health\Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) (2013). Spring 2013 Reference Group Executive Summary: The American College Health Association.
[2] Argyle, M., Martin, M., & Crossland, J. (1989). Happiness as a Function of Personality and Social Encounters. In J. P. Forgas, & J. M. Innes (Eds.), Recent Advances in Social Psychology: An International Perspective (pp. 189-247). North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
[3] Arkoff, A., Meredith, G. M., Bailey, E., Cheang, M., Dubanoski, R. A., Griffin, P. B., & Niyekawa, A. M. (2006). Life Review during the College Freshman Year. College Student Journal, 40, 263-269.
[4] Arkoff, A. (1999). The Illuminated Life: Your Lifebook. Self-Published.
[5] Asselin, C. A. (2012). The Development of the Well-Being Interview. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University.
[6] Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) (2012). AUCCCD 2012 Survey.
[7] Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. T. (1971). Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Science. In M. H. Appley (Ed.), Adaptation Level Theory: A Symposium (pp. 287-302). New York: Academic Press.
[8] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: Steps toward Enhancing the Quality of Life. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
[9] Diener, E. (1984). Subjective Well-Being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542-575.
[10] Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-75.
[11] Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Scollon, C. N. (2006). Beyond the Hedonic Treadmill: Revising the Adaptation Theory of Well-Being. American Psychologist, 61, 305-314.
[12] Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2004). Global Judgments of Subjective Well-Being: Situational Variability and Long-Term Stability. Social Indicators Research, 65, 245-277.
[13] Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1367-1377.
[14] Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive Emotions Broaden the Scope of Attention and Thought-Action Repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 313-332.
[15] Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What Do You Do When Things Go Right? The Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Benefits of Sharing Positive Events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 228-245.
[16] Gallagher, R. P. (2003). National Survey of Counseling Center Directors 2003. Alexandria, VA: International Association of Counseling Services.
[17] Gray-Little, B., Williams, V. S. L., & Hancock, T. D. (1997). An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 443-451.
[18] Henriques, G. (2011). A New Unified Theory of Psychology. New York: Springer Science + Business Media.
[19] Henriques, G. R., Kleinman, K., & Asselin, C. (2014). The Nested Model of Well-Being: A Unified Approach. Review of General Psychology, 18, 7-18.
[20] Hills, P., & Argyle, M. (2002). The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire: A Compact Scale for the Measurement of Psychological Well-Being. Personality and Individual Differences, 33, 1073-1082.
[21] Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803-855.
[22] Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Press.
[23] Oades, L. G., Robinson, P., Green, S., & Spence, G. B. (2011). Towards a Positive University. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 432-439.
[24] Pawelski, J. O. (2003). Character as Ethical Democracy: Definitions and Measures. Journal of College and Character, 5.
[25] Quinn, P. D., & Duckworth, A. L. (2007). Happiness and Academic Achievement: Evidence for Reciprocal Causality. The Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Society, 24-27 May 2007.
[26] Robins, R. W., Hendin, H. M., & Trzensniewski, K. H. (2001). Measuring Global Self-Esteem: Construct Validation of a Single-Item Measure and the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 151-161.
[27] Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the Self. New York: Basic Books.
[28] Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2001). On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141-166.
[29] Ryff, C. D. (1989a). Happiness Is Everything, or Is It? Explorations on the Meaning of Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069-1081.
[30] Ryff, C. D. (1989b). Beyond Ponce de Leon and Life Satisfaction: New Directions in Quest of Successful Ageing. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 12, 35-55.
[31] Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
[32] Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive Education: Positive Psychology and Classroom Interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 293-311.
[33] Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. R., & Santerre, C. (2005). Meditation and Positive Psychology. In C. R. Snyder, & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.
[34] Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms with Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 467-487.
[35] Van Boven, L., & Ashworth, L. (2007). Looking forward, Looking back: Anticipation Is More Evocative than Retrospection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136, 289-300.
[36] Watson, D., Clark, L., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and Validation of Brief Measures of Positive and Negative Affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.