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Why Things Go Right. The Science of Psychology: An Appreciative View by Laura King (University of Missouri at Columbia) is the first text to bring a truly appreciative view of psychology-as a science and for exploring behavior-to introductory students. It is built around the idea that students must study the discipline of psychology as a whole, that the sub-disciplines are intricately connected, and that human behavior is best understood by exploring its functioning state in addition to its potential dysfunctions. For example, imagine that you have been asked to create a science of "watchology." You have two watches that both have had the unfortunate "trauma" of being left in the pocket of someone's jeans through the washer and dryer. One watch has suffered the worst possible fate-it no longer tells time. The other has emerged from the traumatic event still ticking. Which watch would you use to develop your new science of watchology? Clearly, the working watch will help you understand watches better than the broken one. What does watchology have to do with psychology? Quite simply, in psychology as in watchology, it makes sense to start with what works: to gain a general understanding of human behavior and then apply that knowledge to those who have emerged from life's experiences in dysfunction.
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Laura King did her undergraduate work at Kenyon College, where, an English major, she declared a second major, in psychology, during the second semester of her junior year. She completed her A.B. in English with high honors and distinction and in psychology with distinction in 1986. Laura then did graduate work at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis, receiving her Ph.D. in personality psychology in 1991.
Laura began her career at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, moving to the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 2001, where she is now a professor. In addition to seminars in the development of character, social psychology, and personality psychology, she has taught undergraduate lecture courses in introductory psychology, introduction to personality psychology, and social psychology. At SMU, she received six different teaching awards, including the “M” award for “sustained excellence” in 1999. At the University of Missouri, she received the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity in 2004.
Her research, which has been funded by the National Institutes for Mental Health, has focused on a variety of topics relevant to the question of what it is that makes for a good life. She has studied goals, life stories, happiness, well-being, and meaning in life. In general, her work reflects an enduring interest in studying what is good and healthy in people. In 2001, her research accomplishments were recognized by a Templeton Prize in positive psychology. Laura’s research (often in collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students) has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Cognition and Emotion, the Journal of Personality, and other publications . A new paper on the place of regrets in maturity is forthcoming in the American Psychologist.
Currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Research in Personality, Laura has also served as associate editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as well as on numerous grant panels. She has edited or co-edited special sections of the Journal of Personality and the American Psychologist. In “real life,” Laura is an accomplished cook and enjoys listening to music (mostly jazz vocalists and singer-songwriters), gardening, and chasing Sam, her 3-year-old son.
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