Mind Matters — Persistence, Messengers, and More

Every hero/heroine in every fairy tale is beset with obstacles. In meeting challenges with persistence, the protagonist of the story achieves a happy end. And so it is with real life people too. A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology describes how goal persistence “and a positive approach to challenges was … associated with lower rates of disorders” such as depression, anxiety, and panic.

“News in Brief” in the Monitor on Psychology (September, 2019) also reported research that found that young children who hear adult speech and who interact with adults “with more diverse vocabularies knew a greater variety of words themselves.”

There is also research showing that we do indeed “shoot the messenger.” Interactive experiments were done where people were given good or bad news (one example: you did or didn’t win two dollars). Invariably, across all scenarios, participants found the bearer of good news likeable and rated the bearers of bad news more unfavorably. Furthermore, it appears that the people disliking the bearer of bad news often felt that he or she had nefarious motives.

More misperception is clarified in the research that shows that those who consider themselves as of a higher social class “have an exaggerated belief in their own capabilities.” Note that other people are likewise duped into believing that these folks have greater competence. The emperor really has no clothes, despite the hoi polloi thinking otherwise! (Hoi polloi being “we, of the masses”!)

Should addiction be described as a disease? One downside to this nomenclature, says the research reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology is that substance abusers may be less likely to seek therapy. When provided with a “growth mindset message” that allows for multiple factors contributing to substance disorders and multiple avenues for addressing addiction, participants in the study “reported more confidence” handling the addiction. They also reported being more intent in seeking help than those participants presented with a disease message.

On another note, do you envy friends that go on vacation? Research has it that you probably envy your friend more before they go on their dream vacation than after they return. Envy of past events seem to spur motivation and inspiration, in other words, a wish to emulate the traveling friend.

While the research about dream journeys may be interesting, the research on how early adversity affects young children is heart-rending. Studies continue to note how children under three years old “are especially vulnerable to epigenetic changes stemming from adverse experience.” Epigenetic change refers to what gets turned on and off in our DNA at a biochemical level. These children suffer changes in their biology down to the level of their DNA. So children experiencing poverty, abuse, family separation, and/or turmoil have biological changes occurring that deeply affect them adversely. It appears that the earlier the timing of adverse experiences, the worse the epigenetic effects. Point is, pre-verbal and hardly verbal children can suffer profoundly from adverse conditions. For these children such obstacles bring no fairy tale ending—not without caring intervention, at least.