Research Topic

Positive Psychological Interventions Beyond Weird Contexts: How, When, and Why They Work

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Positive psychological interventions (PPIs) are criticized for being a Western-, Educated-, Industrialized-, Rich- and Democratic- (WEIRD) enterprise. The term ‘WEIRD enterprise’ reflects the idiosyncratic nature of the populations on which the science and practice of positive psychology is built; and the ...

Positive psychological interventions (PPIs) are criticized for being a Western-, Educated-, Industrialized-, Rich- and Democratic- (WEIRD) enterprise. The term ‘WEIRD enterprise’ reflects the idiosyncratic nature of the populations on which the science and practice of positive psychology is built; and the extent towards which such is then generalized to the entire human population. Traditionally, PPIs are built on the experiences of white, privileged, wealthy and highly educated individuals that reside in western/first world countries (Hendriks et al., 2019). This approach neglects the under-privileged, under-represented, and vulnerable groups' experiences and ignores the cultural embeddedness/origins of the positive states, traits, and behaviors that PPIs aim to improve. Yet, PPI designs, -content, and methodologies are presented to be universally relevant and useful. Recent bibliographic analyses showed that despite more than 8000 published randomized control trials on PPIs, only 187 were from non-WEIRD contexts. Further, when attempts are made to replicate prominent PPIs in non-WEIRD contexts, they tend to show mixed or non-significant results. This raises the question: Do PPIs really ‘work’ for those it argues it's designed for?

This question roughly translates into a need for understanding “If”, “When”, “How”, and “Why” do PPIs work in non-WEIRD contexts. We, therefore, call for papers that aim to present theoretical- or empirical-based answers to these pressing questions. We aim to synthesize cutting edge knowledge on enhancing the effectiveness of PPI designs, content, dissemination methods, methodologies, and evaluation methods within non-WEIRD contexts. We welcome original research, brief reports, systematic literature reviews, meta-analyses, guidelines and case studies centered around:

1) IF PPIs Work in non-WEIRD contexts.This implies investigating the effectiveness of traditional PPIs in vulnerable populations or within cross-cultural or multicultural contexts. Further, providing theoretical perspectives that supports or critically evaluates the theories, methods, concepts and constructs underpinning traditional PPIs. Finally, we seek papers that develop and evaluate culturally sensitive PPIs within non-WEIRD clinical, educational, organizational, community and societal contexts.

2)WHEN do PPIs work in non-WEIRD contexts. Here the focus is on knowing when PPIs work and don’t work. A critical reflection on the methods, intervention content, and cultural contexts are required to understand the conditions under which PPIs can yield positive results. What is required in terms of developing, designing, implementing, and evaluating PPIs to ensure sustainable results within non-WEIRD contexts?

3)HOW do PPIs work in non-WEIRD contexts. This implies a need to understand the methodological factors and conditions required to ensure that PPIs yield desired results and under which conditions it does not. Further, we have to understand how PPIs affect changes in positive states/traits and behaviors and not just “if” it leads to positive outcomes. Guidelines for enhancing positive states (e.g. life satisfaction, work engagement), -traits (e.g. strengths), -cognitions (e.g. hope; optimism) and -behaviors (e.g. proactive or pro-social behaviors) of individuals, organizations and communities from non-WEIRD contexts are also encouraged. We also seek to understand how to design online interventions that are engaging, culturally sensitive and ensure sustainable results.

4)WHY do PPIs work/not-work in non-WEIRD context. Here, we seek to understand why and for whom PPIs tend to fail or produce mixed results outside of WEIRD contexts. What are the content-related, methodological factors or evaluation methods that practitioners/researchers need to consider when designing PPIs for non-traditional contexts?

To be considered for this research topic in Frontiers, we invite potential authors to submit a 300 Word Abstract of their proposed contributions via the Frontiers System before or on the 31st of May 2021. The final manuscripts will be due on the 30th of August 2021 and will be subjected to the normal blind collaborative review process as Frontiers. You are welcome to submit your manuscripts earlier; we will manage them on a rolling publication basis.


Keywords: Positive Psychology, Positive Intervention, Best practices, Wellbeing, Vulnerable Groups, Mental Health, WEIRD Contexts


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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