The critiques and criticisms of positive psychology: A systematic review

Llewellyn E. van Zyl*, Jaclyn Gaffaney, Leoni van der Vaart, Bryan J. Dik, Stewart I. Donaldson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
141 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this systematic literature review was to explore the current critiques and criticisms of positive psychology and to provide a consolidated view of the main challenges facing the third wave of research. The review identified 32 records that posed 117 unique criticisms and critiques of various areas of the discipline. These could be grouped into 21 categories through conventional content analysis, culminating in six overarching themes or ‘broad criticisms/critiques’. The findings suggested that positive psychology (a) lacked proper theorizing and conceptual thinking, (b) was problematic as far as measurement and methodologies were concerned, (c) was seen as a pseudoscience that lacked evidence and had poor replication, (d) lacked novelty and self-isolated itself from mainstream psychology, (e) was a decontextualized neoliberalist ideology that caused harm, and (f) was a capitalistic venture. We briefly reflect on the findings and highlight the opportunities these criticisms and critiques present.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 23 Feb 2023


  • challenges
  • Criticisms of positive psychology
  • critiques
  • opportunities
  • positive psychology
  • Third Wave Positive Psychology
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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