The 2009 book Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life, by Barbara Fredrickson, was praised by the heavyweights of psychology. Daniel Gilbert said it provided a “scientifically sound prescription for joy.” Daniel Goleman extolled its “surefire methods for transforming our lives.” Martin E.P. Seligman,often called the father of positive psychology, raved that “this book, like Barb, is the ‘real thing.’”
But the top-notchness of the research that underpins the book has been called into serious question. Even Fredrickson, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has now backed away from the ratio in the book’s subtitle, saying she didn’t really understand the mathematics behind it and had relied instead on the fact that it had been peer-reviewed.