Frequently Asked Questions

Positive Psychology

Is positive psychology just about making people happy?
“Happiness” is commonly defined as a state of well being or pleasurable experience, but this notion of happiness is only a small part of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. According to Seligman (2002), positive psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Understanding positive emotion entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Understanding positive institutions entails the study of meaning and purpose as well as the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance. Each of these three domains is related to a different meaning of the scientifically unwieldy term “happiness,” and each has its own road to happiness (Seligman, 2002). Positive emotions lead to the pleasant life, which is similar to the hedonic theories of happiness. Using one’s strengths in a challenging task leads to the experience of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) and the engaged life. Deploying one’s strengths in the service of something larger than oneself can lead to the meaningful life (e.g., belonging to and serving institutions such as education, free press, religion, democracy, and family, to name a few).
Why do you share data with academic researchers?
The relationship between people and their jobs has evolved extensively over the past hundred years and we expect it to continue to evolve in increasingly unexpected ways in the future. We want to help advance progress in this exciting and interesting field of study.
Is positive psychology the same as positive thinking?
Positive psychology is different from positive thinking in three significant ways. First, positive psychology is grounded in empirical and replicable scientific study. Second, positive thinking urges positivity on us for all times and places, but positive psychology does not. Positive psychology recognizes that in spite of the advantages of positive thinking, there are times when negative or realistic thinking is appropriate. Studies find that optimism is associated with better health, performance, longevity, and social success (Seligman, 1991; Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005), but there is evidence that in some situations negative thinking leads to more accuracy and being accurate can have important consequences (Alloy, Abramson, & Chiara, 2000). Optimistic thinking can be associated with an underestimation of risks (Peterson & Vaidya, 2003). For example, we do not necessarily want a pilot or air traffic controller to be an optimist when deciding whether to take off during a storm. The third distinction between positive thinking and positive psychology is that many scholars of positive psychology have spent decades working on the “negative” side of things – depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. We do not view positive psychology as a replacement for traditional psychology, but merely as a supplement to the hard-won gains of traditional psychology.
What is the VIA Character Survey?
The VIA Survey (also referred to as the VIA Inventory of Strengths, VIA-IS) was developed by renowned psychologist, Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., and recently revised by Robert McGrath, Ph.D., VIA’s Senior Scientist. It is a 96-question, scientifically validated, questionnaire that provides a rank order of an adult’s 24 character strengths. It is the only online, free, scientific assessment of character strengths in the world. The survey takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and free survey results and in-depth reports are available upon completion.
Is positive psychology a new field?
No, it is not. Positive psychology has many distinguished ancestors. Since at least the time of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the “good life” has been the subject of philosophical and religious inquiry. Psychologists have been working in positive psychology for decades. It just hasn’t been called positive psychology. To name just a few: Rogers (1951) and Maslow (1970) who are founders of the field of humanistic psychology, prevention programs based on wellness by Albee (1982) and Cowen (1994), work by Bandura (1989) and others on self-efficacy, research on gifted individuals (e.g., Winner, 2000), broader conceptions of intelligence (e.g., Gardner, 1983; Sternberg, 1985), among many others. Marie Jahoda (1958) made the case for understanding well being in its own right, not simply as the absence of disorder or distress. Positive psychology acknowledges a debt to humanistic psychology, which was popular in the 1960s and 1970s and has many followers to this day. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers (among others) proposed that people strive to make the most of their potential in a process called self-actualization, which can be thwarted or enabled by a variety of conditions. Humanistic psychology emphasizes the goals for which people strive, their awareness of this striving, and the importance of rational choice in this process. Today’s positive psychologists have not invented the study of happiness, well being, or strengths. The contribution of contemporary positive psychology has been to make the explicit argument that what makes life most worth living deserves its own empirically based field of study, to provide an umbrella term that brings together isolated lines of theory and research, to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas in related fields through conferences, summer institutes and research grants, to develop a comprehensive conceptual view of broad notions of happiness, to bring this field to the attention of various foundations and funding agencies, to help raise money for research, and to firmly ground assertions on the scientific method.

Performance Conversations

Is it possible to quantifiably measure employee performance?
If the employees perform the same tasks over and over again (such as a call center operator or a assembly line worker), then you probably could find quantifiable metrics to evaluate it. But if the tasks your employees are performing today is not the same as the tasks they performed yesterday, then any quantifiable measure are not possible and you must rely on subjective measures.

ThriveSmart Web App

What different authentication options to you offer to access ThriveSmart?
Users may login and register using either Microsoft or Google authentication, or a local password.
Can I be a part of more than one organization?
Yes. There is no limit to the number of organizations you can belong to. Please send an email to and specify the name and/or email domain of the organization you would like to join.
What data does your decision algorithm use as inputs?
Currently none. The decision algorithm will be implemented mid-2024 to provide recommended questions and discussion topics.
If a user enters gibberish in a response, will that be counted toward their interaction score?
Yes, for now. But we plan to implement a filter to discard responses in which the user made no effort.
If a user enters offensive or harrassing text, will you notify their sponsoring organization?
Yes. We do not tollerate offensive or harrassing text. We reserve the right to cancel any users' account and/or notify their sponsoring organization of behavior which voilates our terms of service.
Why does ThriveSmart allow users to add two email addresses?
ThriveSmart allows you to have two email addresse associated with your account and you may change either one at any time. The primary email address is used: - to identify users in the same organization as you. (by your email domain) - to authenticate using external providers (Google & Microsoft) - to authenticate using the local password - for reminders and notifications The primary email address cannot be from a service provider account (gmail, yahoo, aol, etc.) The secondary email address is used only for login with the local password and you may use a service provider account if you wish. The purpose of this account is to provide a backup in the even your primary account is unavailable and also to make it each to change your primary email address.
Why does ThriveSmart recommend using Google or Microsoft for authentication?
Every time you re-use a password, it becomes less secure. Google and Microsoft both offer OAuth 2.0, which is a secure framework that allows authentication without ThriveSmart ever viewing your password. Security experts recommend this as opposed to creating a new password at each site you visit.