Research at the THSC

Positive psychology

The research conducted under the umbrella of the Thriving Human Science Center is grounded in second wave positive psychology (PP 2.0), as conceptualized by Wong (2011). First wave positive psychology emphasized the importance of positive emotions and positive traits which can strengthen resilience, human functioning and meaning in life (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). However, positive psychology also implicitly shares the values of individualism and instrumentalism in Western societies which means that reaching a thriving and meaningful life is the end goal on ones individual life.

Building on these premises, PP 2.0 recognizes that people can live in prosperous circumstances but can be hurt just as well, and that there are people in this world who have to live with adversities and thrive anyway. It is also important to acknowledge that people all over the world can be hurt or injured at all levels:  individual, relational, and societal. The extended version of positive psychology, PP 2.0, proposes that the most promising strategy to accomplish the mission of the initial positive psychology is to confront the dark side of human existence, and understand the unique experience and expression of well-being in different cultures to help people thrive through a virtuous and meaningful life (Jans-Beken, 2019a; Wong, 2019).


Thriving is not just surviving in life but is all about personal growth, flourishing, and purpose. This pursuit of purpose, or meaning in life, is not always related to happiness, because it can also demand sacrifice and struggle to reach it (Wong, 2019). Also, meaning in life can come from negative experiences in once life (Frankl, 1985). This is why research within positive psychology should not only include conditions and outcomes of happiness or well-being in neutral and positive circumstances. Recently, Robert Emmons (2013) wrote: “To deny that life has its share of disappointments, frustrations, losses, hurts, setbacks, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth.” PP 2.0 aims to include this view and the THSC’s goal is to ground their research in PP 2.0 to capture all aspects in life for human thriving.

Virtues and character strengths

A meaningful life includes personal qualities, virtues, that reflect moral excellence, which are considered the foundations for moral goodness. This means that virtuous people do wat is right and avoid what is wrong, to promote individual and collective well-being. The most recent scientific work on virtues has been done by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Their research revealed six broad categories of virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. The psychological ingredients of these six virtues are character strengths which are dimensions of certain behaviors or actions that can be recognized by others (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

Wisdom: Creativity – curiosity – judgment – perspective – love of learning

Courage: Bravery – perseverance – zest – honesty

Humanity: Love – kindness – social intelligence

Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty & excellence – gratitude – hope – humour – spirituality & faith

Justice: Citizenship – fairness – leadership

Temperance: Forgiveness – humility – prudence – self-regulation

These character strengths are universal, and every individual presents them to a greater or lesser extent. How they are presented, is reliant on the given situation. It is thought that virtues and character strengths are the result of evolutionary processes, necessary for mankind’s survival (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Darwin (1889), in Descent of Man, also coined a similar idea.

… for we are led by the hope of receiving good in return to perform acts of sympathetic kindness to others; and sympathy is much strengthened by habit. In however complex a manner this feeling may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities, which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest, number of offspring (Darwin, 1889, p. 107).

Thus, virtues and character strengths, as evolutionary traits, seem to be of fundamental importance for dealing with the environment and the people in it, in a moral and beneficial way.

Character strengths are combinations of certain thoughts, feelings, and actions (Park & Peterson, 2009), and are considered distinguishable routes to one or more virtues that can support coping with the storms of life. They are assumed to be stable across time and situations, but they are also malleable due to cultivation or deliberate intervention (Gander, Hofmann, Proyer, & Ruch, 2019). No character strength is acting on its own, but they interact and influence one another (Park & Peterson, 2009). Narratives about accepting hardship in life highlight the dialectic dynamics of character strengths such as gratitude, humility, forgiveness and spirituality (Emmons, 2013; Jans-Beken, 2019b).

Researcht at the THSC

The research within the Thriving Human Science Center aims at virtues, character strengths, and related biopsychosocial concepts that can hinder or uplift human thriving to attain and sustain good health and well-being in humans in all cultures of the world. Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to reach the sustainable development goals as formulated by the United Nations.

Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken and dr. Paul T.P. Wong were invited by the John Templeton Foundation and Biola University to submit a full proposal for their research project Mature Gratitude and the Transformation of Suffering and apply for a grant within the Gratitude to God project. The final decision regarding this proposal was reject. The abstract and the full proposal are available online through the Open Science Framework to read. 

  • Darwin, C. (1889). The Descent of man. D. Appleton and Company
  • Emmons, R. (2013). How Gratitude can help you through Hard Times. Greater Good Magazine.
  • Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s Search For Meaning. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
  • Gander, F., Hofmann, J., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character Strengths – Stability, Change, and Relationships with Well-Being Changes. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 
  • Jans-Beken, L. G. P. J. (2019a). The Dialectic Dynamics Between Trait Gratitude Subjective Well-Being and Psychopathology Across 30 Weeks. Counselling Psychology Quarterly.
  • Jans-Beken, L. G. P. J. (2019b). Een zoektocht naar dankbaarheid. Oudorp: Jans-Beken Publishing.
  • Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009). Character Strengths: Research and Practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4), 3.
  • Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.
  • Seligman, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.
  • Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 52(2), 69.
  • Wong, P. T. (2019). Second wave positive psychology’s (PP 2.0) contribution to counselling psychology. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 1–10.

Research team

Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken

Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken

Founder and president of the
Thriving Human Science Center. Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken is founder and president of the Thriving Human Science Center. She graduated in lifespan psychology and received a PhD in positive psychology, and she became an expert in gratitude and mental health. She is an independent researcher who writes and talks about human thriving in general and gratitude specifically. In 2019, she wrote a book Een zoektocht naar dankbaarheid which is available through her personal website.

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  • Jans-Beken, L. (Accepted). Mature Gratitude in Positive Psychiatry. In J.R. Peteet (Eds.), The Virtues in Psychiatric Practice (pp…). Oxford University Press. [Pre-print)
  • Jans-Beken, L. (2021). A Perspective on Mature Gratitude as a Way of Coping with COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology12. [Pre-print][Original article]
  • Jans-Beken, L. (2021). An Inclusive Existential Positive Psychology: A Commentary. International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology. [Pre-print][Original article]



  • Jans-Beken, L., Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L., & Lataster, J. (2018). Reciprocal Relationships between State Gratitude and High- and Low-Arousal Positive Affects in Daily Life: A Time-lagged Ecological Assessment Study, Journal of Positive Psychology , 14(4).
    [Post-print][Original article]


  • Jans-Beken, L. G. P. J., Lataster, J., Peels, D., Lechner, L., & Jacob, N. (2017). Gratitude, psychopathology and subjective well-being: results from a 7.5-month prospective general population study. Journal of Happiness Studies , 19(6).


  • Jans-Beken, L., Lataster, J., Leontjevas, R., & Jacobs, N. (2015). Measuring gratitude: a comparative validation of the Dutch Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ6) and Short Gratitude, Resentment, and Appreciation Test (SGRAT). Psychologica Belgica55(1).




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Research ethics

The Thriving Human Science Center wants to adhere to Open Research practices because there is little supervision from direct colleagues. This means that all researchers affiliated with the THSC promise to adhere to practices that peer reviewers and other interested parties can monitor, and to refrain from questionable research practices. Researchers of the THSC will make the data and analysis methods publicly available for replication purposes. Also the use of preregistration and pre-prints is encouraged and articles will be published Open Access whenever this is possible. In this way others can check whether the conclusions drawn based on the research conducted at THSC are valid. Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken, founder of THSC, signed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) to show these intentions to everyone interested. She is also a member of the Society of the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) to keep up with all the fast paced developments within the Open Science field.

Open Science, just science done right

Ethical Review Board

As an independent science center, we have no access to an ethical review board (ERB). One of the aims of the THSC is to be a think tank on how to provide an ERB for independent researchers with as few costs as possible. Whoever want to join this think tank, please contact dr. Lilian Jans-Beken.

Diversity statement

Equality is a core value at the Thriving Human Science Center. We believe that all kinds of organisations can be powerful platforms for social change and that our higher purpose is to attain equality for all, no one excluded. Creating a culture of equality is the only way forward and that is why we strive to create a research facility that reflects the communities we serve and where everyone feels empowered to bring their full, authentic selves to work. There is a lot of work to be done, but with the help of everyone at the Thriving Human Science Center we can achieve #EqualityForAll.

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