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June 1, 2001


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DALLAS (SMU) -- Two Southern Methodist University psychology professors have won two of the four largest monetary prizes for research promoting the science of human strengths. The annual Templeton Positive Psychology prizes are intended to encourage first-rate scientists in mid-career to devote their best efforts to positive psychology topics, such as optimism, moral identity, self-control, thrift, courage and future-mindedness.

Laura King, associate professor of psychology, received a $50,000 prize for her research on how daily goals can have a positive affect on thoughts, mood, behavior and well-being. Her research also examines how people create good lives within unexpected circumstances, such as parenting a child with Down's syndrome, experiencing a divorce or finding oneself to be infertile. Her work focuses on the stories people tell about their life circumstances and how those stories relate to the experience of meaning and happiness.

Michael McCullough, associate professor of psychology, won a $30,000 prize for his research on forgiveness, gratitude and religion/spirituality and their links to health, happiness and interpersonal relationships. He has examined the social and personality factors that influence forgiveness, and is currently studying how forgiveness unfolds in people's lives over time. McCullough also has been exploring the links between spirituality and health indicators like depression and longevity. He is currently engaged in a program of research on gratitude as a basic emotion and as a health intervention.

The American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. The APA, with underwriting support from the John Templeton Foundation, created the awards program. APA's membership includes more than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students and works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.