Positive psychology as a scientific movement: a case study in scientific legitimacy

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University of New Brunswick


Psychology has always been vulnerable to fads, producing its share of psychological movements and therapeutic cults that blur the borderline between science and non-science. It's important for sociologists of ideas and those who study the social life of scientists and intellectuals to engage with the content of ideas and to take conflicts about scientific legitimacy seriously, both as a measure of how scientists evaluate each other's symbolic products and as criteria for what counts as scientific truth. This research is an attempt to reinvigorate a sociological approach to a debate regarding scientific legitimacy in a case study informed by Frickel and Gross's general theory of scientific/intellectual movements. The focus will be positive psychology's emergence at the end of the last decade and the ongoing debate regarding its scientific legitimacy and how positive psychologists have positioned their movement in relation to past positive psychologies.