February 6, 2009

Critical examination of the strengths perspective

For those interested in a critical examination of the strengths perspective:

To state my position: I am all for the positive psychology focus in that it tries to gain understanding and knowledge of how individuals and insitutions thrive and overcome difficulties. But I feel uneasy with its strong focus on 'playing to your strengths 'theme'. I fear this might be too individualistic and we'd do well to move into a more interactive, dynamic and situationalist perspective. Instead of focusing on strengths I think we should focus more on what (whatever) works. Question: Does anyone know of empirical research which confirms the crucial importance of identifying talents and playing to your strengths?

Update 9 feb : here is a study by Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia; May 7, 2002a, empirically testing Buckingham and Clifton's (2001) claim that companies and individual employees should focus on building on their strengths, rather than correcting their weaknesses, suggesting that attempting to correct weaknesses is often futile and dispiriting, while working on strengths typically leads to positive emotions which help maintain one’s efforts. Haidt concludes: "The most important and interesting hypothesis – that it is better to work on a strength than a weakness – received no support."

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