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Review of General Psychology - Vol 20, Iss 3

Review of General Psychology publishes innovative theoretical, conceptual, and methodological articles that crosscut the traditional subdisciplines of psychology. The journal contains articles that advance theory, evaluate and integrate research literatur

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Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Meaning in life as comprehension, purpose, and mattering: Toward integration and new research questions.


To advance meaning in life (MIL) research, it is crucial to integrate it with the broader meaning literature, which includes important additional concepts (e.g., meaning frameworks) and principles (e.g., terror management). A tripartite view, which conceptualizes MIL as consisting of 3 subconstructs—comprehension, purpose, and mattering—may facilitate such integration. Here, we outline how a tripartite view may relate to key concepts from within MIL research (e.g., MIL judgments and feelings) and within the broader meaning research (e.g., meaning frameworks, meaning making). On the basis of this framework, we review the broader meaning literature to derive a theoretical context within which to understand and conduct further research on comprehension, purpose, and mattering. We highlight how future research may examine the interrelationships among the 3 MIL subconstructs, MIL judgments and feelings, and meaning frameworks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Correction to Nilsson and Kazemi (2016).


Reports an error in "Reconciling and thematizing definitions of mindfulness: The big five of mindfulness" by Håkan Nilsson and Ali Kazemi (Review of General Psychology, 2016[Jun], Vol 20[2], 183-193). In the article, there was an error in the abstract. The second core element of the concept of mindfulness yielded by the analysis was incorrectly listed as “nonjudgmental attitude.” It should be “present-centeredness.” The online version of this article has been corrected. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2016-29254-001.) Mindfulness is an emerging concept in many professions and spheres of social life. However, mindfulness (or sati in Buddhism) can connote many plausible meanings. Thus, the concept is not easily defined and the definitions provided in the literature easily confuse the reader. Some mindfulness researchers offer definitions whereas others do not and take the definition of mindfulness for granted. Beyond the problem of defining mindfulness, the fact that the phenomenon is of great interest to various disciplines, each of which has its own theoretical and methodological approaches, different authors use different terms in describing this phenomenon. In the present article 33 definitions of mindfulness were extracted from a pool of 308 peer-reviewed full-length theoretical or empirical articles written in English, published between 1993 and March 2016, after systematic searches in Google Scholar, PsycARTICLES, and SocINDEX. The definitions were analyzed with a particular focus on the defining attributes or core elements of the concept of mindfulness. The analysis yielded 4 core elements of awareness and attention, present-centeredness, external events, and cultivation. Furthermore, an additional core element emerged from this analysis as being absent in Western definitions of mindfulness. This formed the basis for formulation of a new definition of mindfulness with an emphasis on ethical-mindedness. We argue that this core element is instrumental in filling in the gap that exists in current Western definitions, and with highlighting this element we hope to bridge the Western and Buddhist notions of mindfulness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Contentment: Perceived completeness across cultures and traditions.


Over the past 2 decades, a major focus in psychological research has been on pursuing happiness, positivity, and optimal human flourishing. Interestingly, little attention has been paid to contentment, which, according to over 4,000 years of spiritual, philosophical, and theoretical discourse, is an emotion that sits at the deepest core of human wellbeing and is foundational to the experience of fulfillment in life. This article synthesizes etymological, religious, philosophical, and psychological treatments of contentment from multiple languages and traditions. Derived from these perspectives, it also presents a prototype approach to contentment, its core affect features and cross-cultural variations. Finally, it presents theory-grounded hypotheses intended to initiate future research on the topic. We propose a primary appraisal theme that is at the root of all experiences of contentment: perceived completeness, which refers to the perception that the present situation is enough and entire. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Imagination, inference, intimacy: The psychology of Pride and Prejudice.


A novel is based on suggestions from which readers construct characters and events in an imagined story world. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s suggestions derive from 3 sets of cues: (a) characters’ utterances; (b) thoughts of characters, of the narrator, and even of readers; and (c) narrated depictions of settings, characters, actions and events. Tracing people’s simulations of stories offers a route into the psychology of imagination, in which readers make inferences about what happens in a story. Austen invites intimacy with readers by metonymy, playfulness, and irony. Her novel does not seek to persuade; it communicates indirectly and with ambiguity. Among psychological effects of literary art such as Pride and Prejudice, readers can become better able to empathize and understand other people, and better able to understand and change themselves. For psychology, imaginative engagement in the simulations of fiction may be as important as empirical findings of causes of behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Beneficial action within altruistic and prosocial behavior.


This article integrates knowledge from health psychology, life course development, and social psychology to outline a theoretical framework for identifying, investigating, promoting, and evaluating beneficial action. Beneficial action is defined as a subset of prosocial (motivated to benefit others that may include self-interest) and altruistic (prosocial motivation without self-interest) behavior that uses consequential (scientific) knowledge to increase freedom within the global population. Beneficial action theory seeks to increase political and social actions that are planned and evaluated to ensure key tasks in human development. Central among these is the broadening of social identity to ensure that the human potential to use science to modify the natural environment achieves benefits for the global population. This article presents a theoretical framework for conceptualizing the psychological processes that underlie the development, application and evaluation of beneficial action for individuals and populations. The need to conceptualize beneficial action arises from 3 related observations. First, the certainty of knowledge of the beneficial outcome of a specific human action increases the moral motivation to engage in that action. For example, there is consensus among psychologists and other professions that it is unethical to engage in therapeutic practices that have evidence for neutral or harmful consequences. Second, due to the rapid increase in scientific knowledge, the range of human action that has scientifically ascertainable consequences is rapidly expanding. Third, advancing scientific knowledge means that human actions have increasingly powerful consequences for humanity and the natural world, warranting careful consideration of how to ensure global population benefits. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Competition’s role in developing psychological strength and outstanding performance.


Competition, a topic closely associated with outstanding performance, continues to be a contentious topic (Bonta, 1997; Murayama & Elliot, 2012a, 2012b), particularly in the realm of education and schooling (D. W. Johnson & Johnson, 1987, 2009). Is competition a useful or detrimental strategy for promoting outstanding performance? Does competition contribute positively to performance or should it be avoided? In this article, we took on the challenge of exploring the relationship between competition and high performance and making recommendations about how competition can be used in promoting adaptive youth development. We begin by defining competition and outstanding performance. We then discuss competition in the context of the positive psychology movement, followed by brief reviews of literature showcasing how competition is related to enhanced performance in sport, organizational settings, and academic domains. Next, we discuss competition’s relationship to creativity. The article closes with a discussion of the implications of this work for practice and research. It is our hope that this work will result in increased attention to high performance psychology as an important focus for scholarship and application in a wide range of arenas, from schools and the workplace to athletic and artistic venues. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Buying to blunt negative feelings: Materialistic escape from the self.


We propose that escape theory, which describes how individuals seek to free themselves from aversive states of self-awareness, helps explain key patterns of materialistic people’s behavior. As predicted by escape theory, materialistic individuals may feel dissatisfied with their standard of living, cope with failed expectations and life stressors less effectively than others, suffer from aversive self-awareness, and experience negative emotions as a result. To cope with negative, self-directed emotions, materialistic people may enter a narrow, cognitively deconstructed mindset in order to temporarily blunt the capacity for self-reflection. Cognitive narrowing decreases inhibitions thereby engendering impulsivity, passivity, irrational thought, and disinhibited behaviors, including maladaptive consumption. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

More than social–cultural influences: A research agenda for evolutionary perspectives on prosocial media effects.


Prosocial media effects, short- and long-term intrapersonal changes in prosocial personality traits, values, emotions, and behavior caused by media use, have attracted much less attention than media violence research. Empirical examinations of current theories of prosocial media effects have focused on the indirect effects of prosocial media that explain why exposure to it results in prosocial behavior. However, they have neglected other types of media effects. Further, because of philosophical biases in the field of communication, only the social-cultural perspective has been used to explain the psychological antecedents and consequences of prosocial media effects. The origins and ultimate functions of prosociality in the processes of media effects are unknown. The intersection of evolutionary theories and media effects theories provides a more comprehensive explanation of prosocial media effects. Using various evolutionary perspectives on altruism, reciprocity, and cooperation, this article synthesizes 4 types of prosocial media effects: selective, indirect, conditional, and transactional, suggesting that the dramatic prosocial media learning process should be considered from a comprehensive nature-nurture interactive view. The research agenda, implications, and recent methodological advances are highlighted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Does feeling bad, lead to feeling good? Arousal patterns during expressive writing.


Different psychotherapy theories describe process patterns of emotional arousal in contradictory ways. To control both treatment and therapist responsivity, this study sought to test dynamic patterns in the arousal of negative affect using a controlled experimental study of expressive writing. There were 261 participants (78% women; M = 21 years old; 56% White) who suffered unresolved traumas who were randomly assigned to an expressive writing task and asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings, or to a writing control. Participants wrote for 15 min on three consecutive days, completing the Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale before and after each visit. Data across 6 time points were subjected to hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) and pattern analyses. Session-by-session (24 hr periods), the expressive writing group showed an overall linear decrease in negative affect (β = −2.273, p < .001). However, in pre- to post-session ratings (15 min periods), the expressive writing group also demonstrated increases in negative affect (β = 6.467, p < .001). Neither of these patterns were observed in the control group. Pattern analysis demonstrated 69.8% of cases in the expressive writing group perfectly or almost perfectly followed a predicted zig-zag pattern (p < .01). No control cases showed this pattern. Findings demonstrate how the habituation/inhibition hypothesis (“it gets easier as one gets over it”) and the meaning-making hypothesis (“it gets worse before it gets better”) can both be supported, each at different scopes of analysis. Implications clarify the role of emotional arousal in change. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)