Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) Capstone Projects

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Children learn in part from what they see and hear, whether modeling parents’ or peers’ behavior, reading books, or viewing movies. Parents and their children share the same and often unspoken goal—to live “the good life”—in a state of well-being. Character strengths are foundational to well-being, and movies are a rich source with which to build character strengths and hence flourishing. However, even though movies are considered efficacious (and more rigorous studies are needed), there are minimal resources for parents on how to use this powerful tool with their children and teenagers. Movies are presented here as an educational force, with the ability to promote altruism and self-improvement. The power of the narrative stimulates emotions, and these emotional responses influence learning and behavior. Immersion into a character in a movie increases empathy, and allows the viewer to live the experiences of the character without having to experience the real-life consequences. The following paper will discuss: movies as positive media, the rationale for how movies build character strengths, the benefits of building character strengths from movies in particular, and curriculum/criteria for “Positive Psychology at the Movies for Families, Children, and Teenagers.” The 24 character strengths will be reviewed, and an exemplar movie presented for each, followed by discussion points and potential positive interventions. A literature review of positive psychology and character strengths can be found in the Appendix.


positive psychology, positive media, film, well-being, character strengths, positive education, positive parenting, altruism, empathy, children's media/movies, narrative

Additional Files

LRufer_ThesisPoster_11x8-5.pdf (903 kB)



Date Posted: 21 October 2014

This document has been peer reviewed.