Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
I'm delighted to be able to introduce you to Darren Coppin today.
He comes to us from Sydney Australia,
although you'll recognize the accent as British.
He is CEO of Eesher House which takes the best of behavioral science and
positive psychology and applies it to meet government policy objectives.
And this week you've been learning about the positivity ratio and
you'll have the chance with your homework assignment to dive in and
experience the positively ratio challenge.
Well Darren has taken the positively ratio and put it to work, literally and
helped people who are long term unemployed gain employment.
So part of what you do is teach resilience workshops.
Can you tell me a bit about who you're teaching those resilience workshops to?
Delighted to be here.
>> As you identified, the target group that we work with are the unemployed, and
there are various subcategories.
Youth unemployed, disabled unemployed, long-term unemployed, and
And we engage them with resilience workshops,
as you've said five different resilience workshops.
But they're a very different group to what you
might expect in terms of their fear of failure, fear lf embarrassment.
They feel awkward, they can just get up and
walk out of the workshops, if they want to.
They're a group that we uncovered and
possess all of the traits of learned helplessness.
Very high levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, all of the studies and
research show this.
But they're also, that describes them as a group almost as a different culture.
But they're really just people.
They're you and me.
>> Mm-hm >> We have a slightly different set of
circumstances in our lives where we could've ended up
down that path >> yeah.
>> So we have to be pragmatic in how we work with them and so they're
a fascinating group to work with where relatively little behavioral science or
psychology has been implemented and that's really what we are working with.
We're trying to change people's behaviors and habits and
traits and try and encourage them to be proactive.
>> Mm-hm. >> But
the last thing in the world they need are lectures.
>> Right. >> People trying to be motivational.
>> Right. >> And falsely,
evangelically make them move forward.
It's gotta come from themselves.
>> Right. >> Which has
been an interesting 15 years of.
>> Yeah. >> Of working out offset resource.
>> So with that you know, kind of need to introduce things in a delicate or
practical manner, how do you introduce the positively ratio.
>> Yes, I mean one does have to be delicate.
And remember the, the individuals are protecting themselves again,
from embarrassment not wanting in,
in front of their peers to be seen to be over enthusiastic.
>> Mm-hm. >> So it's difficult, but
we found the best way is to just be open and honest and clear and not patronize.
>> Mm-hm >> our clients so we simply explain that
humans we, we're here we've survived as a species due to pessimism.
Due to being wary of danger, and, and moving away from it.
But, stress can lead to excessive narrow mindedness.
I think that term was first written down in the 1620s by Ben Johnson.
It was used for centuries before then.
and, and it actually turned out to be a genuine way the brain works.
>> Mm-hm. >> Neurons fire in a narrow minded way and
you can not find solutions to problems.
Or it's much more difficult when you're under stressed.
Now, studies have shown that the levels of anxiety stress and depression amongst
the unemployed, are similar to the levels of soldiers returning from duty.
Perhaps in Afghanistan.
But the beauty is there's a huge amount of science in how to address this.
So, we introduce positivity by explaining there are mindedness issues and
also the issues they have at home with their families.
Those sorts of environments of stress, anxiety, and depression
just create an environment where you're argumentative you're defensive,
you're quicker to take the mickey out of somebody rather than
support them if they're trying to get out of particular circumstances.
Unlike most things in terms of positive psychology and,
and actually being proactive-
>> can become a habit.
Also that negativity becomes a habit in the households,
in the environments of, of, of the unemployed.
So we explain with that-
>> And and, and we're totally open and
honest, and we explain the original research from, from, from where.
Some of, some of the theory and the ratio it comes from.
And then we, we encourage them to give it a try.
Have a go at the ratio survey.
So, you, they're taking the positivity self-test, the ratio survey?
>> Yes. >> The same one that I'm asking,
students to do for their, homework assignment.
Give them the experience of it.
So what, what, what's the reaction to it?
>> Hesitation and curiosity.
>> But people seem to not be able to resist a self test.
>> Yeah. [LAUGH] >> And self analysis.
So they're, they're.
They are a bit skeptical.
>> Because that's their fallback position.
>> Cynicism, skepticism.
They give it a go, and immediately they're drawn in.
>> And they, humans love to score.
And, you know, this is why Cosmopolitan's great, not that I read it, all the time.
[LAUGH] But then there are often multiple choice questions in there and surveys, and
you can't wait to see what you score.
Of course after they've undertaken the,
the survey we say well you don't have to share your scores.
But we're looking for a particular ratio that seems to be better.
You want to be more positive than negative,
which is an effort a lot of the time.
Because they don't want to share their scores genuinely or generally only
the people that have done really well, got a high ratio perhaps 8 to 1.
Want to share their score.
>> Which can be dangerous.
>> Mm-hm. >> When we're dealing with people who,
who are uncomfortable or lacking in, in confidence.
>> Mm-hm. >> And sometimes so, we explain to them
and, and, and some of your [COUGH] studies and research from the results of this,
this survey, that perhaps 80% of adults score below-
>> Right. >> Three to one, is,
is actually an invigorating and a very positive statement.
You are not, you're in the vast majority if you're scoring below this.
But then all people want to know about is well, how do I improve this, and
that's absolutely key.
For the first time they're trying to take steps to improving the situation.
But it's almost irresistible, it's relatively easy, and it's intuitive.
It's not at all awkward.
So the people that scored highly are massively engaged,
because they're very proud of themselves.
The people that didn't score so
highly are massively engaged because they want to improve their score.
>> Yeah, yeah that's great.
So Darren the results of your workshops have been described as profound and
unprecedented by major government officials.
So what are the outcomes that have drawn that high praise?
>> Yes, measuring outcomes is absolutely key.
But in, in my position, it comes,
the pressure comes from two different environments.
First of all academically.
My academic supervisors want me to measure outcomes in terms of improved wellbeing,
improved resilience, improved positivity.
But of course government funders of these programs,
they're not particularly concerned with those outcomes.
They want to know how many more people are getting jobs and
how many more people are staying in jobs.
For whom those jobs are sustainable.
Because 70% of people drop out of work in the first three months having been
long-term unemployed previously.
So what's prompted the unprecedented, the profound responses?
I really we have doubled what's considered a,
world leading uplift in outcomes in people getting a job.
And, and in terms of specific percentages commercially able to share.
105% more people are staying in that job for at least three months.
So we're doubling the number of people staying in work.
That has a profound impact, not only on those people's lives and
the lives of their families, but also on government budgets as well.
>> Mm-hm. That's great.
So what's next for you?
how, how else are you going to use positive psychology behavioral science to
meet government policy objectives and help create a better society?
I mean what do you see as the future of this?
>> Well that, that's absolutely key and
that's really my personal motivation is, is to maintain.
Positive psychology and integrate that with other behavioral science,
support other behavioral science.
And bring that to the center of government decision making and policy formulation.
The beauty of positive psychology is that it's academically evidenced.
It's scientifically based.
>> Mm-hm. >> It's not here today, gone tomorrow.
Movement it's absolutely based on science and
there are disagreements, there are arguments and that's all part of good...
>> Mm-hm. >> Pure science.
And but government shouldn't be formulating policy on and
can I keep my job as a minister for two years.
>> Government policy, policy should be based upon science, wisdom, and
knowledge and hopefully this movement and the sort of results we're
achieving can bring that into the center of of, of government decision making, and
we're talking the numbers we're dealing with they're not hundreds.
They're not thousands, they're tens of thousands,
hundreds of thousands of people are going through these programs now.
So it's very substantial.
But of course we cannot just rely on this is improved well being for people.
That's all well and good but it's not necessarily sustainable for
a government, minister, or a policy formulator.
They need to know immediately and very quickly in within six to 12 months.
Not a four to five year outcome.
Is this saving my department money?
Is it sustainable fiscally?
positive psychology doesn't always make that argument as well as it could do.
>> And but applying it we're proving the numbers.
The return on investment.
And that's really where the future is.
Is, is to bring this and pragmatically talk the language of policy formulators
and ministers, and talk in their language so that they start really bringing this to
the core of what they're doing, and improving lives on a much greater.
>> Right. So, I,
I really like how you emphasize this is not just about.
And not just about improving lives it's about improving society.
So a lot of people come to positive psychology thinking that it's,
oh this is about making my own life better.
But as we learn the tools of positive psychology we're really learning how to
make society better or to apply those tools to, to make a better world.
To make a contribution so.
Thank you very much for
being with me today Darren and I hope that this conversation will inspire you to
take the positivity ratio challenge, as part of the homework for this week.