Part Nine: Finding Your Path, Engaging Your Purpose – How to Adjust Your Perception

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When including both passive reaction pattern and perceived sense of control in the regression analysis, we found that the strength of the relationship between passive reaction pattern and psychological well-being was reduced, while the effect of perceived sense of control was significant, supporting partial mediation.

Indeed, it seems to be the case that people who use more passive reaction pattern reported lower well-being due to a reduced perceived sense of control. Palliative reaction showed a negative relationship with both perceived control and psychological well-being. When entering both palliative reaction and perceived control in the analysis, the original significant association between palliative coping and psychological well-being became non-significant, while the association between perceived control and psychological well-being was significant.

People who scored higher on avoidance experienced a lower sense of control and lower psychological well-being. These results suggest that people who use more avoidance reported lower well-being due to a lower perceived sense of control. Above, we reported the analyses for each coping strategy separately. However, we categorized different coping strategies in engagement and disengagement coping.

To probe whether our data support this distinction in coping strategies, we subjected the 47 coping items of the the Utrecht Coping List UCL; Schreurs et al. This first factor analysis showed that the expressing emotions items did not clearly distinguish between the two factors. We therefore omitted these items from the analyses below, and subjected the remaining 42 items to another exploratory factor analysis requesting two factors. Step 1 results are the same for both coping strategies. People who scored higher on engagement coping experienced a higher sense of control and higher psychological well-being.

Again, it seems to be the case that people who use more engagement coping strategies reported higher well-being due to a higher perceived sense of control. Disengagement coping was negatively related to perceived sense of control and psychological well-being. These findings lend support for our prediction that a disengaged way of handling stressors is related to lower well-being because it is associated with less perceived control.

Given the cross-sectional nature of our study, we also examined two alternative models in an exploratory fashion. In the first alternative indirect effect model, we examined perceived control as independent variable, coping strategies as mediator, and psychological well-being as dependent variable. Standard errors are reported in parentheses. Significant conditional indirect effect estimates and CI's are typed bold. In the second column, the specific coping strategy was tested as the independent variable.

In the third column, the specific coping strategy was tested as the mediator. Finally, in the fourth column, the specific coping strategy was tested as dependent variable. In the second alternative model, we tested the complete reversed directional model from psychological well-being to control to coping strategies. These exploratory analyses seem to suggest stronger support for our theoretical model than for models in which the direction of the relationships between the variables is partially reversed.

Our results showed that the coping strategies of passive reaction pattern, palliative reaction and avoidance were consistently and negatively related to perceived control and therefore to less well-being. Such disengaged behaviors lead a person to experience a lack of control, and potentially a lack of possibilities to confront the stressor Latack, ; Dijkstra et al. Our results concerning active confronting and reassuring thoughts revealed a positive relationship with perceived control and through perceived control with more well-being.

Seeking social support, however, was not related to either well-being or control and therefore could not be regarded as an effective coping strategy. Elaborating on this further it can be argued that the extent to which seeking social support will be related to perceived control is contingent on the success of the search.

In other words is seeking social support resulting in actually getting social support? If not, for example when asked support when in fear of job loss is being denied, a lack of possibilities to confront the stressor might be experienced. Indeed, in light of the importance of social support for health and well-being Tian et al. The coping strategy expressing emotions also was not related to well-being but there was a significant relationship with perceived control. This relationship was, however, in the opposite direction of what we expected.

In line with this inconsistent finding, our exploratory factor analysis indicated that expressing emotions did not clearly map onto engagement or disengagement coping, but was negatively related to control, and indirectly negatively to well-being. When examining the items pertaining to this coping style e. Finally, expressing anger or frustration might be associated with a lack of perceived control, given that these emotions do not help to reappraise or handle the stressor, and as such might be associated with diminished well-being Leonard and Alison, Whereas past research has clearly supported control as being relevant for well-being Mirowsky and Ross, ; Thoits, ; Turner and Lloyd, ; Chipperfield et al.

The main contribution of this study therefore is that it suggests an important role of control in the stress process and that it deepens our understanding of the differential effectiveness of different coping strategies Britt et al.

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Indeed, perceived sense of control might be identified as an important explaining variable in the relationship between coping and psychological well-being. Rather than merely activating or de-activating someone, the lack of engagement implied by disengagement strategies is correlated to feeling that the situation is outside of someone's control, which in turn is associated with negative consequences. In line with the theoretical reasoning that the most insightful distinction in coping strategies is engagement vs. However, given that expressing emotions did not satisfactorily fit in with one of the two factors, and that reassuring thoughts when analyzed separately showed no effects, our findings also suggest that when categorizing coping styles into broader categories, certain styles might involve a variety of strategies and behaviors.

This points to the importance of theoretical development based on fundamental research, and a potential more fine-grained examination of these relationships in future research. We acknowledge that our data are of cross-sectional nature. This means that we cannot claim that the relationships really are in the direction we propose them to be. We are relatively confident, however, that our results will replicate in a more robust research design. This confidence is based on our examination of two different exploratory indirect effect models in which a coping strategies were the mediator, perceived control the independent variable, and psychological well-being as the outcome, and b psychological well-being influenced coping strategies via perceived control.

Inspection of these models revealed far less strong indirect effects, some null-effects which were previously significant e. However, in order to develop stronger theoretical notions concerning the role of control in the stress process, a thorough examination of the different coping strategies as to their potential to elicit a sense of control is needed.

Since its purpose of developing theory, such research would preferably be of experimental nature. Creating conditions in which different coping strategies are induced would allow for more causal explanations concerning the relationship between a particular coping strategy and perceived sense of control. These relationship could then be further examined conducting longitudinal research in order to test whether more engagement coping will indeed lead to more perceived control over time, which in turn might be positively related to psychological well-being.

Apart from the correlational nature of our study, a second limitation is the lack of information on the participant's locus of control. As locus of control has been discussed as a potential predictor of the use of certain coping strategies e.

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However, locus of control is often seen as a relatively stable trait, which is difficult to influence. Our data seem to indicate that perceived control is influenced by coping strategies, and thus can vary depending on which coping style is employed. As the two composite coping styles are positively correlated, it seems unlikely that locus of control is an alternative explanation of our findings.

Additionally, although our findings seem to indicate that influencing someone's sense of control might be a fruitful intervention for dealing with stress, future research might empirically test such an intervention. Finally, in the current study, we did not investigate the context in which the coping strategy was employed. In line with the less consistent findings regarding seeking social support and expressing emotions, it might be the case that certain coping strategies are more or less needed or become more or less effective in certain contexts, for certain people, or in certain situations Mucci et al.

For instance, control might be more relevant to the degree that the stressful situation is more ambiguous, certain coping strategies might be more effective for more optimistic people, and one's standing in the organizational hierarchy might affect the opportunity to employ certain coping strategies.

It would be interesting for future research to take such moderating factors into account. In sum, our data provide some preliminary insights into why different coping strategies can have negative or positive effects on psychological well-being. By increasing a sense of control, some coping strategies that are more engaging i. Organizations could use these findings to actively coach and train their employees to seek effective control over stressful situations, and to teach them to employ engaged rather than disengaged coping styles.

AH provided substantial contributions to the research conception and design. MD and AH analyzed and interpreted the data. MD wrote the paper, AH provided critical revisions of the paper. MD and AH both attended to the revision of the paper. MD and AH both approved of this version of the paper to be published. The authors thank Nishi Ramlal for collecting the data.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Sep Maria T.

Dijkstra 1 and Astrid C. Astrid C. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Homan ln. This article was submitted to Organizational Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Apr 28; Accepted Sep 5. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

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No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Being able to cope effectively with stress can help people to avoid negative consequences for their psychological well-being. Keywords: coping, perceived sense of control, stress, psychological well-being, dis engagement. Coping with stressful life events Stress is most generally agreed upon as to be an environment-perception-response process e.

Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Figure 2. Materials and methods Sample and procedure Data were collected in the context of a broader research question concerning coping, well-being, and cultural differences between Hindustan and other Dutch inhabitants of The Netherlands Ramlal, Perceived sense of control We used 4 items developed by Cohen et al.

Control variables Past work on stress at work revealed gender differences in coping with stressors e. Cultural background 0. Sex 0. Age Educational background 2. Active confronting 2. Seeking social support 2. Reassuring thoughts 2. Passive reaction pattern 1. Palliative reaction 2. Avoidance 1. Expressing emotions 2. Engagement coping 2. Disengagement coping 1.

Perceived control 3. Psychological well-being 4.


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Data analyses We regressed psychological well-being and perceived control on the seven coping strategy variables. Engagement coping We argued that active confronting, seeking social support, reassuring thoughts, and expressing emotions would be more engaged coping styles. Active confronting People who scored higher on active confronting experienced a higher sense of control and higher psychological well-being. Seeking social support Opposite to our reasoning, seeking social support was not significantly associated with perceived control and psychological well-being.

Reassuring thoughts People who scored higher on reassuring thoughts experienced a higher sense of control and higher psychological well-being. Expressing emotions Expressing emotions was not significantly associated with psychological well-being, and negatively associated with perceived control. Disengagement coping We argued that passive reaction pattern, palliative reaction, and avoidance would be more disengaged coping styles. Passive reaction pattern People who scored higher on passive reaction pattern experienced a lower sense of control and lower psychological well-being.

Palliative reaction Palliative reaction showed a negative relationship with both perceived control and psychological well-being. Avoidance People who scored higher on avoidance experienced a lower sense of control and lower psychological well-being. Exploratory factor analysis Above, we reported the analyses for each coping strategy separately. Engagement coping composite variable People who scored higher on engagement coping experienced a higher sense of control and higher psychological well-being.

Disengagement coping composite variable Disengagement coping was negatively related to perceived sense of control and psychological well-being. Testing alternative models with different directionality Given the cross-sectional nature of our study, we also examined two alternative models in an exploratory fashion. Discussion The purpose of this study was to find out why some coping strategies are effective in reducing the negative effect of stressors on well-being and some are not.

Limitations and future research We acknowledge that our data are of cross-sectional nature. Conclusion In sum, our data provide some preliminary insights into why different coping strategies can have negative or positive effects on psychological well-being. Author contributions AH provided substantial contributions to the research conception and design.

Conflict of interest statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. References Acharya V. The financial crisis of — causes and remedies.

Everyday stressors and gender differences in daily distress. Locus of control, coping behaviors, and performance in a stress setting: a longitudinal study. The influence of bio-behavioural factors on tumor biology: pathways and mechanisms. Cancer 6 , — A stitch in time: self-regulation and proactive coping.

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The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Performance of a five-item mental health screening test. Care 29 , — Childhood adversity and cumulative life stress risk factors for cancer-related fatigue.

Occupational stress and employee turnover. Ergonomics 56 , — Effective and ineffective coping strategies in a low-autonomy work environment. Health Psychol. Dimensions of subjective mental health in American men and women. Health Soc. Stress-induced cardiac arrhythmias: the heart—brain interaction. Trends Cardiovasc. Personality and coping. Situational coping and coping dispositions in a stressful transaction. Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach.

Stability in perceived control: implications for health among very old community-dwelling adults. Aging Health 16 , — Managing stress and maintaining well-being: social support, problem-focused coping, and avoidant coping. A global measure of perceived stress. Reducing conflict-related strain employee strain: the benefits of an internal locus of control and a problem-solving conflict management strategy. Work Stress 25 , — Passive responses to interpersonal conflict at work amplify employee strain. Work Organ. Relationship between perceived social support and psychological well-being among students based on mediating role of academic motivation.

Health Addict. If it changes it must be a process: study of emotion and coping during 3 stages of a college-examination. Work-related stress and well-being: the roles of direct action coping and palliative coping. Stress as a neuroinflammatory condition in brain: damaging and protective mechanisms. Economic stress in workplace: the impact of fear the crisis on mental health. Work 51 , — Employment loss and the recession: an overview.

In this study, participants from European American and East Asian cultures were asked to choose a pen as a token of appreciation for completing a questionnaire. There were either four pens of one color and one of another color, or three pens of one color and two of another.

Engaging in Rather than Disengaging from Stress: Effective Coping and Perceived Control

European Americans were significantly more likely to choose the more uncommon pen color in both cases. Data are from Kim and Markus , Experiment 3. As we have seen, the self-concept is a rich and complex social representation of who we are, encompassing both our internal characteristics and our social roles. The multidimensional nature of our self-concept means that we need to consider not just each component in isolation, but also their interactions with each other and their overall structure. Two particularly important structural aspects of our self-concept are complexity and clarity.

Some selves are more complex than others, and these individual differences can be important in determining psychological outcomes. Having a complex self means that we have a lot of different ways of thinking about ourselves. For example, imagine a woman whose self-concept contains the social identities of student, girlfriend, daughter, psychology student , and tennis player and who has encountered a wide variety of life experiences. Social psychologists would say that she has high self-complexity.

On the other hand, a man who perceives himself primarily as either a student or as a member of the soccer team and who has had a relatively narrow range of life experiences would be said to have low self-complexity.

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For those with high self-complexity, the various aspects of the self are separate, as the positive and negative thoughts about a particular self-aspect do not spill over into thoughts about other aspects. The benefits of self-complexity occur because the various domains of the self help to buffer us against negative events and enjoy the positive events that we experience.

For people low in self-complexity, negative outcomes in relation to one aspect of the self tend to have a big impact on their self-esteem. For example, if the only thing that Maria cares about is getting into medical school, she may be devastated if she fails to make it. On the other hand, Marty, who is also passionate about medical school but who has a more complex self-concept, may be better able to adjust to such a blow by turning to other interests. People with high self-complexity seem to react more positively to the good things that happen to them but not necessarily less negatively to the bad things.

And the positive effects of self-complexity are stronger for people who have other positive aspects of the self as well.

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Theoretically, the concepts of complexity and clarity are independent of each other—a person could have either a more or less complex self-concept that is either well defined and consistent, or ill defined and inconsistent. However, in reality, they each have similar relationships to many indices of well-being. For example, as has been found with self-complexity, higher self-concept clarity is positively related to self-esteem Campbell et al.

Why might this be? Perhaps people with higher self-esteem tend to have a more well-defined and stable view of their positive qualities, whereas those with lower self-esteem show more inconsistency and instability in their self-concept, which is then more vulnerable to being negatively affected by challenging situations. Consistent with this assertion, self-concept clarity appears to mediate the relationship between stress and well-being Ritchie et al. Greater clarity may promote relationship satisfaction in a number of ways. Also, perhaps when we feel clearer about who we are, then we feel less of a threat to our self-concept and autonomy when we find ourselves having to make compromises in our close relationships.

This is indeed what the research suggests. Like any other schema, the self-concept can vary in its current cognitive accessibility. Self-awareness refers to the extent to which we are currently fixing our attention on our own self-concept. Perhaps you can remember times when your self-awareness was increased and you became self-conscious—for instance, when you were giving a presentation and you were perhaps painfully aware that everyone was looking at you, or when you did something in public that embarrassed you. Emotions such as anxiety and embarrassment occur in large part because the self-concept becomes highly accessible, and they serve as a signal to monitor and perhaps change our behavior.

You may know some people for whom the physical appearance component of the self-concept is highly accessible. They check their hair every time they see a mirror, worry whether their clothes are making them look good, and do a lot of shopping—for themselves, of course. Other people are more focused on their social group memberships—they tend to think about things in terms of their role as Muslims or Christians, for example, or as members of the local tennis or soccer team. In addition to variation in long-term accessibility, the self and its various components may also be made temporarily more accessible through priming.

When the knowledge contained in the self-schema becomes more accessible, it also becomes more likely to be used in information processing and to influence our behavior. The researchers expected that most children viewed stealing as wrong but that they would be more likely to act on this belief when they were more self-aware. They conducted this experiment on Halloween in homes within the city of Seattle, Washington.

At particular houses, children who were trick-or-treating were greeted by one of the experimenters, shown a large bowl of candy, and were told to take only one piece each. The researchers unobtrusively watched each child to see how many pieces he or she actually took. However, the children who were in front of a mirror were significantly less likely to steal Other research has shown that being self-aware has a powerful influence on other behaviors as well.

What this means is that when you are trying to stick to a diet, study harder, or engage in other difficult behaviors, you should try to focus on yourself and the importance of the goals you have set. Social psychologists are interested in studying self-awareness because it has such an important influence on behavior. People become more likely to violate acceptable, mainstream social norms when, for example, they put on a Halloween mask or engage in other behaviors that hide their identities.

For example, the members of the militant White supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan wear white robes and hats when they meet and when they engage in their racist behavior. Rioting occurs when civilians engage in violent public disturbances. The targets of these disturbances can be people in authority, other civilians, or property. The triggers for riots are varied, including everything from the aftermath of sporting events, to the killing of a civilian by law enforcement officers, to commodity shortages, to political oppression.

Both civilians and law enforcement personnel are frequently seriously injured or killed during riots, and the damage to public property can be considerable. Social psychologists, like many other academics, have long been interested in the forces that shape rioting behavior. One of the earliest and most influential perspectives on rioting was offered by French sociologist, Gustav Le Bon — Festinger et al. Under this view, being unidentified and thereby unaccountable has the psychological consequence of reducing inner restraints and increasing behavior that is usually repressed, such as that often seen in riots.

In support of this position, he found that participants engaged in more antisocial behavior when their identity was made anonymous by wearing Ku Klux Klan uniforms. For example, during some riots, antisocial behavior can be viewed as a normative response to injustice or oppression. In other words, if the group situation is associated with more prosocial norms, deindividuation can actually increase these behaviors, and therefore does not inevitably lead to antisocial conduct. Building on these findings, researchers have developed more contemporary accounts of deindividuation and rioting.

One particularly important approach has been the social identity model of deindividuation effects or SIDE model , developed by Reicher, Spears, and Postmes This perspective argues that being in a deindividuated state can actually reinforce group salience and conformity to specific group norms in the current situation. According to this model, deindividuation does not, then, lead to a loss of identity per se. Indeed, as Fogelson concluded in his analysis of rioting in the United States in the s, restraint and selectivity, as opposed to mindless and indiscriminate violence, were among the most crucial features of the riots.

Private self-consciousness refers to the tendency to introspect about our inner thoughts and feelings. Public self-consciousness , in contrast, refers to the tendency to focus on our outer public image and to be particularly aware of the extent to which we are meeting the standards set by others. However, the presence of the mirror had no effect on college students from Japan. In general, though, we all experience heightened moments of self-awareness from time to time.

Sometimes when we make these comparisons, we realize that we are not currently measuring up. Simply put, the more self-aware we are in a given situation, the more pain we feel when we are not living up to our ideals. In these cases, we may realign our current state to be closer to our ideals, or shift our ideals to be closer to our current state, both of which will help reduce our sense of dissonance.

Another potential response to feelings of self-discrepancy is to try to reduce the state of self-awareness that gave rise to these feelings by focusing on other things. For example, Moskalenko and Heine found that people who are given false negative feedback about their performance on an intelligence test, which presumably lead them to feel discrepant from their internal performance standards about such tasks, subsequently focused significantly more on a video playing in a room than those given positive feedback.

There are certain situations, however, where these common dissonance-reduction strategies may not be realistic options to pursue. For instance, the person who has become addicted to an illegal substance may choose to focus on healthy eating and exercise regimes instead as a way of reducing the dissonance created by the drug use. The key findings were that those who had engaged in the self-affirmation condition and were then exposed to a threatening hypothesis showed greater tendencies than those in the non-affirming group to seek out evidence confirming their own views, and to detect illusory correlations in support of these positions.

Still another option to pursue when we feel that our current self is not matching up to our ideal self is to seek out opportunities to get closer to our ideal selves. One method of doing this can be in online environments. They also rated their avatars as more similar to their ideal selves than they themselves were.


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The authors of this study concluded that these online environments allow players to explore their ideal selves, freed from the constraints of the physical world. There are also emerging findings exploring the role of self-awareness and self-affirmation in relation to behaviors on social networking sites. Gonzales and Hancock conducted an experiment showing that individuals became more self-aware after viewing and updating their Facebook profiles, and in turn reported higher self-esteem than participants assigned to an offline, control condition.

The increased self-awareness that can come from Facebook activity may not always have beneficial effects, however. Perhaps sometimes we can have too much self-awareness and focus to the detriment of our abilities to understand others. Toma and Hancock investigated the role of self-affirmation in Facebook usage and found that users viewed their profiles in self-affirming ways, which enhanced their self-worth.

They were also more likely to look at their Facebook profiles after receiving threats to their self-concept, doing so in an attempt to use self-affirmation to restore their self-esteem. It seems, then, that the dynamics of self-awareness and affirmation are quite similar in our online and offline behaviors. Having reviewed some important theories and findings in relation to self-discrepancy and affirmation, we should now turn our attention to diversity. Once again, as with many other aspects of the self-concept, we find that there are important cultural differences.

For instance, Heine and Lehman tested participants from a more individualistic nation Canada and a more collectivistic one Japan in a situation where they took a personality test and then received bogus positive or negative feedback. They were then asked to rate the desirability of 10 music CDs. Subsequently, they were offered the choice of taking home either their fifth- or sixth-ranked CD, and then required to re-rate the 10 CDs. The critical finding was that the Canadians overall rated their chosen CD higher and their unchosen one lower the second time around, mirroring classic findings on dissonance reduction, whereas the Japanese participants did not.

Crucially, though, the Canadian participants who had been given positive feedback about their personalities in other words, had been given self-affirming evidence in an unrelated domain did not feel the need to pursue this dissonance reduction strategy. In contrast, the Japanese did not significantly adjust their ratings in response to either positive or negative feedback from the personality test. Once more, these findings make sense if we consider that the pressure to avoid self-discrepant feelings will tend to be higher in individualistic cultures, where people are expected to be more cross-situationally consistent in their behaviors.

Those from collectivistic cultures, however, are more accustomed to shifting their behaviors to fit the needs of the ingroup and the situation, and so are less troubled by such seeming inconsistencies. Although the self-concept is the most important of all our schemas, and although people particularly those high in self-consciousness are aware of their self and how they are seen by others, this does not mean that people are always thinking about themselves. This may be welcome news, for example, when we find ourselves wincing over an embarrassing comment we made during a group conversation.

It may well be that no one else paid nearly as much attention to it as we did! People also often mistakenly believe that their internal states show to others more than they really do. One at a time, each student stood up in front of the others and answered a question that the researcher had written on a card e. After each round, the students who had not been asked to lie indicated which of the students they thought had actually lied in that round, and the liar was asked to estimate the number of other students who would correctly guess who had been the liar. Asendorpf, J.

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