Spring 2006                           T, Th, 11:30-1                       Sanders Theatre


The course focuses on the psychological aspects of a fulfilling and flourishing life. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship, goalsetting, love, achievement, creativity, mindfulness, spirituality, and humor.


Instructor: Tal Ben-Shahar                                         Head TF: Jessica Glazer

Email:                         Email:

Office hours by appointment


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Tentative Schedule


February 2:                   Introduction


February 7:                   Why do we need a Positive Psychology?


February 9:                   Basic Premises I (what’s this class about, anyway?)


February 14:                 Basic Premises II (oh, I see)


February 16:                 Beliefs as self-fulfilling prophecies I (psychology of success)


February 21:                 Beliefs as self-fulfilling prophecies II (and more success)


February 23:                 Question of focus I (hey, look here)


February 28:                 Question of focus II (so much to look at...)


March 2:                      Can we change?


March 7:                      Yes, we can change


March 9:                      Physical health (sleep is good i.e. why this class starts at 11:30)


March 14:                    Setting goals I (from lofty todo lists...)


March 16:                    Setting goals II (... to earthly visions)


March 21:                    Midterm


March 23:                    Review and questions (everything you wanted to know, and... have a wonderful break)




April 4:                         Perfectionism I (at Harvard???)


April 6:                         Perfectionism II


April 11:                       Mindfulness (Ohmmmmmm)


April 13:                       Humor (finally, some fun in this class)


April 18:                       Relationships I (love, friendship, and other good stuff)


April 20:                       Relationships II


April 25:                       Self-esteem I


April 27:                       Self-esteem II


May 2:                         The good life (wait, what was the course about until now?)


May 4:                         What Now? (the next step, the one after, and farewell  :(



15%     Section

15%     Response papers

20%     Midterm

25%     Final Project

25%     Final Exam


Response papers.  On most weeks, you will be required to hand in a response paper, between 1 and 3 pages long.  You will receive the question/topic each Thursday by 5pm.  Send in your response, pasted in the email, to your TF by 9pm on Monday.  The response papers are graded pass/fail—if you hand it in, you pass.


Final Project.  The final project is due the last day of reading period.  More information coming your way soon...


Sections.  Sections form an integral part of the class.  Beyond the opportunity to better understand ideas from lectures/readings, sections will include exercises that apply the key concepts from the course.  Because sections are being developed as groups, there will be no switching sections or attending sections other than your own once the semester and sections are underway.


Did we leave anything out?  Oh yes, the reading.

Required reading (all available at the Coop):

·        Branden, Nathaniel.  The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

·        Ben-Shahar, Tal.  The Question of Happiness (look out for the sequel, The Answer)

·        Maslow, Abraham.  Selected Chapters from Towards a Psychology of Being, Third Edition (this is a special edition printed for this class.  It is not available on Amazon or anywhere else other than the Coop).


Each week, selections from the above books as well as journal articles will be assigned (all articles are available online).


Not required reading (all available at the Coop):

Moby Dick, Ulysses, Remembrance of Things Past (Volume 1-3), Old Man and the Sea, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich, Advanced Linear Algebra.


Did we leave anything else out?