Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Predicting Emotional Distress

For many years, researchers have looked at many aspects of the self and how well they can predict emotional distress. One aspect of the self is ego-strength, for example. Freud used this term to refer to how well people could defend them selves psychologically against certain types of threats. The psychological literature in this area has gotten very muddled and confusing. It is unclear which aspect of the self is which and which if any are important by themselves or together. Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently conducted a study help solve this problem.

Using questionnaire measures and complex statistical analyses, they were able to determine that two classes of aspects of the self are important when predicting emotional distress. They referred to these two classes as elasticity and permeability. Elasticity refers to people's ability to be resourceful and "bounce back" from setbacks. Permeability refers to the degree to which people hold back (i.e., less permeable) or give in to impulses (i.e., more permeable). Essentially, people who are more elastic tend to be less agitated (e.g., less anxious, less nervous, less worried) and less dejected (e.g., less sad, less disappointed, less dissatisfied). People who are more permeable tend to be less dejected, but this is partially because people who are more permeable are also more elastic. When the influence of elasticity is taken into consideration, being more permeable actually is related to being more dejected.

Source: Gramzow, R. H., Sedikides, C., Panter, A. T., & Insko, C. A. (2000). Aspects of self-regulation and self-structure as predictors of perceived emotional distress. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 188-205.

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