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Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson was the first professional to describe and use the concept of ego identity in his writings on what constitutes healthy personality development for every individual over the course of the life span. Basic to Erikson’s view, as well as those of many later identity writers, is the understanding that identity enables one to move with purpose and direction in life, and with a sense of inner sameness and continuity over time and place. Erikson considered identity to be psychosocial in nature, formed by the intersection of individual biological and psychological capacities in combination with the opportunities and supports offered by one’s social context. Identity normally becomes a central issue of concern during adolescence, when decisions about future vocational, ideological, and relational issues need to be addressed; however, these key identity concerns often demand further reflection and revision during different phases of adult life as well. Identity, thus, is not something that one resolves once and for all at the end of adolescence, but rather identity may continue to evolve and change over the course of adult life too.
Following Erikson’s initial writings, subsequent theorists have laid different emphases on the role of the individual and the role of society in the identity formation process. One very popular elaboration of Erikson’s own writings on identity that retains a psychosocial focus is the identity status model of James Marcia. While Erikson had described one’s identity resolution as lying somewhere on a continuum between identity achievement and role confusion (and optimally located nearer the achievement end of the spectrum), Marcia defined four very different means by which one may approach identity-defining decisions: identity achievement (commitment following exploration), moratorium (exploration in process), foreclosure (commitment without exploration), and diffusion (no commitment with little or no exploration). These four approaches (or identity statuses) have, over many decades, been the focus of over 1,000 theoretical and research studies that have examined identity status antecedents, behavioral consequences, associated personality characteristics, patterns of interpersonal relations, and developmental forms of movement over time. A further field of study has focused on the implications for intervention that each identity status holds. Current research seeks both to refine the identity statuses and explore their dimensions further through narrative analysis.
Stephanie J. Wilson, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, and William A. Woody
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Inflammation is central among the immune system’s responses to threat, and its markers provide invaluable tools for studying health and disease across the lifespan. Key to battling acute infection and a natural consequence of tissue damage, inflammation triggers a cascade to destroy pathogens and promote healing. Of particular research focus in the past 20 years, chronic, systemic inflammation—in the absence of specific infection or wounding—serves as a hallmark of most “diseases of aging,” including cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes, among many others. This low-grade, persistent inflammation appears to damage tissue and contributes to dysfunction in the cardiovascular and endocrine systems, among others; the exact mechanisms remain lively topics of ongoing study.
Research in the past two decades has revealed that inflammation rises in response to psychosocial stress. Indeed, chronic stress boosts the likelihood of elevated inflammation, inflammatory diseases, and death. Stress can also speed age-related increases in inflammation, exacerbating an already dysregulated inflammatory response to threat. In one classic example, chronically stressed dementia family caregivers saw four-fold hikes in inflammation compared to non-caregiving controls.
Inflammation’s relevance spans the life course—from childhood to adulthood, to death. Both infection-related inflammation and stress in childhood presage elevated inflammation and poor health in adulthood. In turn, higher inflammation in adulthood foreshadows frailty and functional decline, among a host of chronic conditions, in older age. In conclusion, mounting evidence suggests that inflammation impacts health and disease across the lifespan and can capture how the effects of stress “get under the skin.”
DeMond M. Grant and Evan J. White
Cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources toward achieving one’s goals. However, research indicates that anxiety biases multiple cognitive processes, including cognitive control. This occurs in part because anxiety leads to excessive processing of threatening stimuli at the expense of ongoing activities. This enhanced processing of threat interferes with several cognitive processes, which includes how individuals view and respond to their environment. Specifically, research indicates that anxious individuals devote their attention toward threat when considering both early, automatic processes and later, sustained attention. In addition, anxiety has negative effects on working memory, which involves the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s consciousness. Anxiety has been found to decrease the resources necessary for effective working memory performance, as well as increase the likelihood of negative information entering working memory. Finally, anxiety is characterized by focusing excessive attention on mistakes, and there is also a reduction in the cognitive control resources necessary to correct behavior. Enhancing our knowledge of how anxiety affects cognitive control has broad implications for understanding the development of anxiety disorders, as well as emerging treatments for these conditions.
Deborah M. Capaldi, David C. R. Kerr, and Stacey S. Tiberio
Intergenerational studies are key to informing research, preventive intervention, and policy regarding family influences on healthy development and maladjustment. Continuities in family socialization and contextual risks across generations, as well as genetic factors, are associated with the development of psychopathology—including externalizing problems in children—and with intergenerational associations in the use of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; these continuities are reflected in the low-to-moderate associations generally found in prospective studies. Until recent years, estimates of intergenerational continuities in problem behaviors and the processes explaining such associations (e.g., parenting behaviors) have been based largely on retrospective reports by adults about their own parents’ behaviors. Now there are some long-term prospective studies spanning as many as 30 years that can assess linkages between behaviors in one generation and the next. Whereas such studies have considerable design and implementation challenges, and are very expensive, it is of critical importance to examine the magnitude of associations of behaviors across generations. For example, a modest association across generations suggests either that genetic factors have a limited influence on that behavior or that they are subject to considerable moderation by environmental factors. These prospective studies relate to theoretical developments regarding intergenerational influences that are reviewed—for example, individual differences in genetic sensitivity to environmental influences. The theoretical approach employed in the Oregon Youth Study—Three Generation Study is a Dynamic Developmental Systems (DDS) model of continuous feedback across systems throughout development. A new hypothesis encompassed by DDS is developmental congruence of intergenerational associations in problem behaviors. As used in geometry, congruence refers to figures of a similar shape and size. This term has been adapted to refer to the expectation that ages of onset and patterns of growth in key behaviors will show similarity across generations. This is based on the theory that genetic and temperamental factors increase an individual’s risk when these factors are expressed at sensitive developmental periods. Thus, the timing of these manifestations (e.g., susceptibility to deviant peer influences) is expected to be similar across generations. Developmental similarity is also likely due to continuities in social-risk context and family mechanisms, such as parenting.
Anja Van den Broeck and Sharon K. Parker
Job design or work design refers to the content, structure, and organization of tasks and activities. It is mostly studied in terms of job characteristics, such as autonomy, workload, role problems, and feedback. Throughout history, job design has moved away from a sole focus on efficiency and productivity to more motivational job designs, including the social approach toward work, Herzberg’s two-factor model, Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics model, the job demand control model of Karasek, Warr’s vitamin model, and the job demands resources model of Bakker and Demerouti. The models make it clear that a variety of job characteristics make up the quality of job design that benefits employees and employers alike. Job design is crucial for a whole range of outcomes, including (a) employee health and well-being, (b) attitudes like job satisfaction and commitment, (c) employee cognitions and learning, and (d) behaviors like productivity, absenteeism, proactivity, and innovation. Employee personal characteristics play an important role in job design. They influence how employees themselves perceive and seek out particular job characteristics, help in understanding how job design exerts its influence, and have the potential to change the impact of job design.
Vincente Martínez-Tur and Carolina Moliner
Traditionally, justice in teams refers to a specific climate—called justice climate—describing shared perceptions about how the team as a whole is treated. Justice at the individual level has been a successful model from which to build the concept of justice in teams. Accordingly, there is a parallelism between the individual and team levels in the investigation of justice, where scholars’ concerns and responses have been very similar, despite studying different levels of construct. However, the specific particularities of teams are increasingly considered in research. There are three concepts (faultlines, subgrouping, and intergroup justice) that contribute to knowledge by focusing on particularities of teams that are not present at the individual level. The shift toward team-based structures provides an opportunity to observe the existence of dividing lines that may split a team into subgroups (faultlines) and the difficulty, in many cases, of conceiving of the team members as part of a single group. This perspective about teams also stimulates the study of the subgroup as a source of justice and the focus on intergroup justice within the team. In sum, the organizational context facilitates shared experiences and perceptions of justice beyond individual differences but also can result in potential conflicts and discrepancies among subgroups within the team in their interpretation of fairness.
Erica H. Wojcik, Irene de la Cruz-Pavía, and Janet F. Werker
Language is a structured form of communication that is unique to humans. Within the first few years of life, typically developing children can understand and produce full sentences in their native language or languages. For centuries, philosophers, psychologists, and linguists have debated how we acquire language with such ease and speed. Central to this debate has been whether the learning process is driven by innate capacities or information in the environment. In the field of psychology, researchers have moved beyond this dichotomy to examine how perceptual and cognitive biases may guide input-driven learning and how these biases may change with experience. There is evidence that this integration permeates the learning and development of all aspects of language—from sounds (phonology), to the meanings of words (lexical-semantics), to the forms of words and the structure of sentences (morphosyntax). For example, in the area of phonology, newborns’ bias to attend to speech over other signals facilitates early learning of the prosodic and phonemic properties of their native language(s). In the area of lexical-semantics, infants’ bias to attend to novelty aids in mapping new words to their referents. In morphosyntax, infants’ sensitivity to vowels, repetition, and phrase edges guides statistical learning. In each of these areas, too, new biases come into play throughout development, as infants gain more knowledge about their native language(s).
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
The academic study of leadership has a long history, beginning with the Great Man Theory, the Trait Theory, the Behavioral Theories, the Contingency Theories, the Transactional Leadership Theories, and ending with the Transformational Leadership Theories. Even as new theories are advanced, the fascination with the old theories continues. Despite these great efforts, there is no sign of the emergence of a general all-encompassing theory of leadership. This is understandable, since leadership is exercised in different groups pursuing different goals, and the processes of achieving those goals are considerably varied. It appears, then, that different models of leadership would be relevant to different situational contingencies defined, for example, by goals of the group, processes of achieving those goals, member characteristics, cultural differences, etc. The search goes on for identifying the fit between situational contingencies and leadership models. The notion that different groups pursue different goals, and that the processes of achieving those goals are vastly different, is best illustrated by sports. People may participate in a sport for (a) the mere kinesthetic pleasure of playing it, (b) to pursue excellence in that activity, and/or (c) to witness excellence in a competition between elite athletes/teams. Given these differing purposes and processes within sport, we may expect that the leadership appropriate to each purpose of participation and the processes thereof would also be different. As is the case with leadership in other contexts, the search goes on for the identification of the leadership model most appropriate to each purpose of participation in sport.
Loneliness or perceived social isolation is a subjective experience relating to dissatisfaction with one’s social relationships. Most research has focused on the experience of loneliness in old age, but levels of loneliness are also known to be high among teenagers and young adults. While poor health may be associated with increased feelings of loneliness, there is now considerable evidence on the role of loneliness as a risk factor for poor mental and physical health. Studies show that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and chronic diseases, and also with a higher rate of mortality. Risky health behaviors, a poor cardiovascular profile and compromised immune functioning have all been proposed as potential pathways through which loneliness may affect health. However, much still remains to be understood about these mechanisms.
Ildiko Tombor and Susan Michie
People’s behavior influences health, for example, in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of disease, the management of illness, and the optimization of healthcare professionals’ behaviors. Behaviors are part of a system of behaviors within and between people in that any one behavior is influenced by others. Methods for changing behavior may be aimed at individuals, organizations, communities, and/or populations and at changing different influences on behavior, e.g., motivation, capability, and the environment. A framework that encapsulates these influences is the Behavior Change Wheel, which links an understanding of behavior in its context with methods to change behavior. Within this framework, methods are conceptualized at three levels: policies that represent high-level societal and organizational decisions, interventions that are more direct methods to change behavior, and behavior change techniques that are the smallest components that on their own have the potential to change behavior. In order to provide intervention designers with a systematic method to select the policies, interventions, and/or techniques relevant for their context, a set of criteria can be used to help select intervention methods that are likely to be implemented and effective. One such set is the “APEASE” criteria: affordability, practicability, effectiveness, acceptability, safety, and equity.