Positive psychology has made a remarkable impact on psychological research and practice in recent years. Significant further work is needed, however, to clarify its core concepts. In a two-part project, the author presents the first systematic analysis of the most basic concept in positive psychology: the ‘positive’. Part I, presented here, consists of a descriptive analysis. Based on a close reading of founding documents in positive psychology, this analysis reveals six discrete meanings of the positive in these texts, then probes the considerable tensions that arise within and among them and lead to unfortunate confusions in theory, research, and practice. In Part II, the author draws various distinctions to help relieve these tensions and offers a normative definition of the positive, with the goals of providing direction for inquiry and practice and encouraging further analysis of this and other basic concepts in positive psychology.
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