Positive Institutions, Law, and Policy

Peter H. Huang and Jeremy A. Blumenthal

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Positive Institutions, Law, and Policy

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  • Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology



We analyze how positive institutions—democracy, strong families, free inquiry, free press, schools, businesses, communities, societies, work, and culture—can help foster human flourishing. We provide four examples of positive law and policy to illustrate the important role legal and social institutions can play in facilitating positive psychology. First, we explore positive psychology's potential interplay with law firm culture to reduce unhappiness of law firm associates. Second, we review the influence of civic participation in juries and democratic processes on citizens' well-being. Third, we identify the effects of policy changes on subjective perceptions of well-being in a wide range of contexts, and the complexities of evaluating such effects in light of individuals’ cognitive and emotional tendencies. Finally, we speculate about the role of government or other third-party institutional intervention in enabling individuals and communities to flourish and thrive. Our overarching goal is to generate discussion about positive psychology's role in developing institutions that can help improve individuals' quality of life.

Keywords: democratic participation; Institutions; Paternalism; subjective well-being; workplace satisfaction

Article.  6197 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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