Introducing positive psychology to SLA

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Sarah Mercer
Peter D. MacIntyre


Positive psychology is a rapidly expanding subfield in psychology that has important implications for the field of second language acquisition (SLA). This paper introduces positive psychology to the study of language by describing its key tenets. The potential contributions of positive psychology are contextualized with reference to prior work, including the humanistic movement in language teaching, models of motivation, the concept of an affective filter, studies of the good language learner, and the concepts related to the self. There are reasons for both encouragement and caution as studies inspired by positive psychology are undertaken. Papers in this special issue of SSLLT cover a range of quantitative and qualitative methods with implications for theory, research, and teaching practice. The special issue serves as a springboard for future research in SLA under the umbrella of positive psychology.


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Mercer, S., & MacIntyre, P. D. (2014). Introducing positive psychology to SLA. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 4(2), 153-172.
Author Biographies

Sarah Mercer, Institut für Anglistik, Heinrichstr. 36/II, A-8010 Graz

sarah.mercer@uni-graz.atSarah Mercer teaches at the University of Graz, Austria, where she has been working since 1996. She completed her PhD at Lancaster University and her habilitation in Graz. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience, focusing in particular on the self. She is the author of Towards an Understanding of Language Learner Self-concept (2011, Springer) and is co-editor of Psychology for Language Learning (2012, Palgrave) and Multiple Perspectives on the Self in SLA (2014, Multilingual Matters). She is one of the co-editors of the journal System.

Peter D. MacIntyre, Cape Breton University, 1250 Grand Lake Road, Sydney, NS, B1P 6L2; phone +1-902-563-1315

peter_macintyre@cbu.caPeter D. MacIntyre is a professor of psychology at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. Peter received his PhD from the University of Western Ontario in 1992 under the supervision of R. C. Gardner. From 1992 to 1994 he held a position as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa working with R. Clément. In 1994, Peter joined the faculty at Cape Breton University and was appointed Full Professor in 2004. He co-wrote Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality (2014, Multilingual Matters) with Tammy Gregersen and co-edited Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning (2015, Multilingual Matters) with Zoltan Dörnyei and Alastair Henry.


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