There are four essential ways to promote international psychology: organizing international conferences; working with an international group of scholars; doing research on universal themes that appeal to all cultures; and developing assessment instruments and interventions that are sensitive to cultural issues and can be readily adapted to each culture. I want to share my experiences in all four endeavors.
My status as a racial minority and my preference to be a global citizen—combined with my penchant to be authentic—naturally resulted in raising a unique voice that cannot be “boxed in” to any specific school of psychology. Thus, I was “compelled” to develop my “big tent” approach, which is more inclusive and more sensitive to the suffering masses in all countries.
This turned out to be a good thing, and it was the beginning of my interest in International Psychology, Division 52 of the APA, where I no longer felt marginalized. I was especially grateful to Anthony Marsella and the late Paul Pederson for their encouragement in my adventure in international psychology.
I created the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM) in 1998 (www.meaning.ca) as a big tent for all people interested in meaning research and applications, regardless of their theoretical stripes or nationality. One of the objectives of the INPM is the International Biennial Meaning Conferences since 2000 (www.meaning.ca/conference). Our Meaning Conferences have been attended by psychologists from over 30 countries, with two published volumes of conference proceedings (Wong, Thompson, & Wong, 2013; Wong, Wong, McDonald, & Klaassen, 2012).
It is encouraging that this meaning movement has led to the first International Meaning Conference in the UK in 2017 (www.meaning.org.uk) and contributed to Taiwan’s Life and Death Education and meaning-centered positive education (Chang, 2016; Wong, 2013a). I have been invited to speak in Taiwan on numerous occasions, and have been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Life Education by the National Taipei University of Nursing and Health.
I have worked with several international research teams. The first collaborative project was on work stress with an international team (Spector et al., 2001) in as many as 24 nations/territories (Spector et al., 2002a, 2002b) and three distinct cultural regions (Spector et al., 2004). I also worked with a research team on stress and well-being in Asia (Ujimoto, Nishio, Wong, & Lam, 1993; Wong & Ujimoto, 1998).
More recently, I have collaborated with researchers in the UK (Collinson & Lyle, 2016; Wong, Ivtzan, & Lomas, 2017; Wong & Worth, in press). One of our ongoing projects is to develop a Self-Transcendence Measure (Wong, Peacock, Ivtzan, Lomas, & Kjell, in progress). I am also a part of the Virtue Scholars group on virtue, happiness, and meaning in life, funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Wong, 2016a).
Research on Universal Themes
In the area of positive aging and dying, my main contribution was to reorient successful aging from biological factors to psychological, cultural, and spiritual factors (Reker & Wong, 1988, 2012; Wong, 1989; Wong & Watt, 1991). My research on death and dying has resulted in development of Death Attitude Profile-Revised (Wong, Reker, & Gesser, 1994); this scale has been translated into numerous languages.
My demonstration of spontaneous attribution, both causal and existential (Wong, 1991; Wong & Weiner, 1981), began my 30 years of research on meaning seeking and meaning making (Wong & Fry, 1998; Wong, 2012a). My implicit theory approach to do research on meaning (Wong, 1998) has also been adopted in several countries (Kim, Lee, & Wong, 2005; Takano & Wong, 2004). My meaning research has led to contributions to several international encyclopedias on positive psychology, meaning, and well-being (e.g., Wong, 2009a, 2013b, 2014a, 2016b, 2017).
My discovery that internal and external control are two separate dimensions challenged the Western conception of internal and external control as two opposite poles on the same continuum (Wong & Sproule, 1984). Similarly, I have conceptualized positive and negative emotions as two separate interactive dimensions. This line of thinking resulted in the dialectical framework of second wave positive psychology (PP 2.0; Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2016; Wong, 2009a, 2011, 2016c). My cross-cultural research on stress and coping and positive psychology has also led to several publications (Leong & Wong, 2003; Wong, 2013b; Wong & Ujimoto, 1998; Wong & Wong, 2006)
Assessments and Interventions
I have developed the following instruments which have been translated in several languages: Death Attitude Profile-Revised (Wong, Reker & Gesser, 1994), Personal Meaning Profile (Wong, 1998) and Personal Meaning Profile-Brief (McDonald, Wong, & Gingras, 2012); The Stress Appraisal Measure (Peacock & Wong, 1990); Trent Attribution Profile (Wong & Sproule, 1984); Coping Schemas Inventory (Wong, Reker, & Peacock, 2006); Meaning Mindset Measure (Wong, 2012b); Life Orientation Scale (Wong, 2014b); and Life Attitude Scale (Wong, 2009b).
My integrative meaning-centered approach is inherently cross-cultural because meaning is culturally-based (Wong, 2010, 2016d). My workshops on meaning therapy in Toronto have attracted attendees from different countries. In addition, I have been invited to give meaning therapy workshop in several countries (e.g., England, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan), thus attesting to its appeal to different cultures.
The above simply represents one man’s efforts in international psychology. Given the vitality and diversity of Div.52, I cannot even imagine what kind of progress we have made together as a Division in advancing international psychology in the last 20 years—I believe that we have advanced psychology in all fronts, from theory and research to application.
I am increasingly convinced that international psychology represents the future of psychology for the following reasons: (1) It corrects the past mistake of the hegemony of American psychology and its imperialism and colonialism; (2) it builds a more complete scientific account of human behavior by taking into consideration the many ethnic-cultural factors; (3) it promotes peace and justice by building bridges of mutual understanding and respect; and (4) it represents a big tent that welcomes all psychologists, regardless of their research interests, theoretical orientations, and nationalities.
We can all feel at home in Div. 52, where all voices are heard and welcomed. For the above reasons, I hope that all APA members will support the vision and endeavors of Div. 52 by becoming an active member.
- Chang, S-M. (2016). The development and implementation of life education in Taiwan: A meaning-centered positive education. Meaning Conference. Retrieved from http://meaning.ca/conference/shu-mei-chang/
- Collinson, D., & Lyle, L. (2016). What exactly is positive psychology? [Online video]. The Positive Psychology People. Retrieved from http://www.thepositivepsychologypeople.com/what-exactly-is-positive-psychology/
- Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P. (2016). Second wave positive psychology: Embracing the dark side of life. London, UK: Routledge.
- Kim, M., Lee, H-S., & Wong, P. T. P. (2005, August). Meaning of life according to Koreans: The Korean Personal Meaning Profile. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
- Leong, F. T. L., & Wong, P. T. P. (2003). Optimal human functioning from cross-cultural perspectives. In B. Walsh (Ed.), Counseling psychology and optimal human functioning (pp. 123-150). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- McDonald, M. J., Wong, P. T. P., & Gingras, D. T. (2012). Meaning-in-life measures and development of a brief version of the Personal Meaning Profile. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 357-382). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Reker, G. T., & Wong, P. T. P. (1988). Aging as an individual process: Towards a theory of personal meaning. In J. E. Birren & V. L. Bengston (Eds.), Emergent theories of aging (pp. 214-246). New York, NY: Springer.
- Reker, G. T., & Wong, P. T. P. (2012). Personal meaning in life and psychosocial adaptation in the later years. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 433-456). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Spector, P. E., Cooper, C. L., Sanchez, J. I., O’Driscoll, M., Sparks, K., Bernin, P., Büssing, A., Dewe, P., Hart, P. … & Yu, S. (2001). Do national levels of individualism and internal locus of control relate to well-being: An ecological level international study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22, 815-832.
- Spector, P. E., Cooper, C. L., Sanchez, J. I., O’Driscoll, M., Sparks, K., Bernin, P., Büssing, A., Dewe, P., Hart, P. … & Yu, S. (2002a). A 24 nation/territory study of work locus of control in relation to well-being at work: How generalizable are western findings? Academy of Management Journal, 45, 453-466.
- Spector, P. E., Cooper, C. L., Sanchez, J. I., Sparks, K., Büssing, A., Dewe, P., Lu, L., Miller, K., De Moraes, L. R. … & Wong, P. T. P. (2002b). The pitfalls of poor psychometric properties: A reply to Hofstede’s reply to us. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 51, 174-178.
- Spector, P. E., Cooper, C. L., Poelmans, S., Allen, T. D., O’Driscoll, M., Sanchez, J. I., Siu, O. L., Dewe, P., Hart, P., … & Yu, S. (2004). A cross-national comparative study of work/family stressors, working hours, and well-being: China and Latin America vs. the Anglo world. Personnel Psychology, 57, 119-142.
- Takano, Y., & Wong, P. T. P. (2004, July/August). Meaning of life according to a Japanese sample. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, Hawaii.
- Ujimoto, K. V., Nishio, H. K., Wong, P. T. P., & Lam, L. (1993). Cultural factors affecting the self-assessment of health satisfaction. In R. Masi, L. Mensah, & K. McLeod (Eds.), Health and culture: Explaining the relationships (pp. 229-240). Toronto, ON: Canadian Council on Multicultural Health.
- Wong, L. C. J., Thompson, G. R., & Wong, P. T. P. (Eds.) (2013). The positive psychology of meaning and addiction recovery: Selected papers from Meaning Conferences. Birmingham, AL: Purpose Research.
- Wong, P. T. P. (1989). Personal meaning and successful aging. Canadian Psychology, 30, 516-525.
- Wong, P. T. P. (1991). Existential vs. causal attributions: The social perceiver as philosopher. In S. L. Zelen (Ed.), New models, new extensions of attribution theory (pp. 84-125). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
- Wong, P. T. P. (1998). Implicit theories of meaningful life and the development of the Personal Meaning Profile (PMP). In P. T. P. Wong, & P. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 111-140). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2009a). Chinese positive psychology. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Encyclopedia of positive psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 148-156). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2009b). Viktor Frankl: Prophet of hope for the 21st century. In A. Batthyany, & J. Levinson (Eds.), Existential psychotherapy of meaning: Handbook of logotherapy and existential analysis. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2010). Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 40(2), 85-99.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81.
- Wong, P. T. P. (Ed.). (2012a). The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2012b). What is the meaning mindset? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 4(1), 1-3.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2013a, October). A meaning-centered approach to positive education. Invited lecture presented at FoGuang University, Yilan County, Taiwan.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2013b). Positive psychology. In K. Keith (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cross-cultural psychology. Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2014a). Meaning in life. In A. C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research (pp. 3894-3898). New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2014b). Viktor Frankl’s meaning seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyany & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in existential and positive psychology (pp. 149-184). New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016a, June). Self-transcendence as the path to virtue, happiness and meaning Paper presented at the research working group meeting for Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life Project, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. (Funded by the John Templeton Foundation)
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016b). Humanistic theories in psychopathology. In H. L. Miller (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of theory in psychology (pp. 438-441). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016c). Chinese positive psychology revisited. International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 6(1). Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/chinese-positive-psychology-revisited/
- Wong, P. T. P. (2016d). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. E. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyány (Eds.), Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy (pp. 323-342). New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2017). Coping and stress. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of abnormal and clinical psychology (886-890). New York, NY: Sage.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Fry, P. S. (Eds.). (1998). The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Wong, P. T. P., Ivtzan, I., & Lomas, T. (2017). Good work: A meaning-centred approach. In L. G. Oades, M. F. Steger, A. Delle Fave, & J. Passmore (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of positivity and strengths-based approaches at work (pp. 233-247). West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
- Wong, P. T. P., Peacock, E., Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., & Kjell, O. (in progress). Self-Transcedence Measure.
- Wong, P. T. P., Reker, G. T., & Gesser, G. (1994). Death Attitude Profile – Revised: A multidimensional measure of attitudes toward death. In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Death anxiety handbook: Research, instrumentation, and application (pp. 121-148). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.
- Wong, P. T. P., Reker, G. T. & Peacock, E. (2006). The resource-congruence model of coping and the development of the Coping Schema Inventory. In P. T. P. Wong, & L. C. J., Wong (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural perspectives on stress and coping (pp. 223-283). New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Sproule, C. F. (1984). Attributional analysis of locus of control and the Trent Attribution Profile (TAP). In H. M. Lefcourt (Ed.), Research with the locus of control construct: Limitations and extensions (Vol. 3; pp. 309-360). New York, NY: Academic Press.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Ujimoto, K. V. (1998). The elderly: Their stress, coping, and mental health. In L. C. Lee, & N. W. S. Zane (Eds.), Handbook of Asian American psychology (pp. 165-209). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Watt, L. (1991). What types of reminiscence are associated with successful aging? Psychology and Aging, 6, 272-279.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Weiner, B. (1981). When people ask “Why” questions and the heuristic of attributional search. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 650-663.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Wong, L. C. J. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of multicultural perspectives on stress and coping. New York, NY: Springer.
- Wong, P. T. P., Wong, L. C. J., McDonald, M. J., & Klaassen, D. W. (Eds.). (2012). The positive psychology of meaning and spirituality: Selected papers from Meaning Conferences. Birmingham, AL: Purpose Research. (Original published in 2007 by INPM Press)
- Wong, P. T. P., & Worth, P. (in press). The deep-and-wide hypothesis in giftedness and creativity [Special issue]. Psychology and Education, 54(3/4).
This article is submitted to be published in the Spring 2017 issue of the International Psychology Bulletin in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Division 52 of the American Psychological Association.