Tag Archives: Christopher Peterson

Higher “Purpose in Life” Reduces Adverse Health Outcomes

Lei Yu

Lei Yu

Purpose in Life – the sense that life has meaning and goal direction – is associated with reduced risks of adverse health outcomes including stroke, according to Rush University Medical Center’s Lei Yu, Patricia A. Boyle, Robert S. Wilson, Julie A. Schneider, and David A. Bennett collaborating with Steven R. Levine of SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Patricia A. Boyle

Patricia A. Boyle

Older people with a greater sense of purpose are less likely to develop other undesirable health conditions including:

Robert S. Wilson

Robert S. Wilson

Yu’s team analyzed autopsy results on 453 older adults enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

All participants underwent annual physical and psychological evaluations, including a standard assessment of Purpose in Life, and were followed until they died, at an average age of 90.
None of the participants had dementia when they entered the study, but 114 people had suffered a stroke.

Eric S. Kim

Eric S. Kim

Yu’s team extended earlier work by University of Michigan’s Eric S. Kim, Jennifer K. Sun, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, demonstrating that Purpose in Life is associated with a reduced risk of clinical strokes in a group of participants aged 53 to 105 years.

This difference suggests that purpose in life is protective for silent infarcts, as well as clinical stroke.

Jennifer Sun

Jennifer Sun

At autopsy, Yu’s group observed macroscopic infarctions, areas of stroke damage visible to the naked eye, among 154 participants and microinfarcts, areas of damage visible with a microscope, among another 128.

Purpose in Life was judged annually using a modified 10-item measure derived from University of Wisconsin’s Carol D. Ryff and Corey Lee Keyes’ scales of Psychological Well-being.

Carol D. Ryff

Carol D. Ryff

Higher scores indicating a greater purpose, and every one-point increase, the likelihood of having one or more macroscopic infarctions decreased by about 50 percent.
In contrast, there was no link between purpose and microinfarcts.

These results persisted after adjusting for potentially confounding factors including vascular risk factors:

  • Body mass index,
  • History of smoking,
  • Diabetes mellitus,
  • Blood pressures.
    Corey Lee Keyes

    Corey Lee Keyes

    Other controlled factors include:

  • Optimism,
  • Childhood adverse experiences,
  • Loneliness,
  • Negative affect,
  • Physical activity,
  • Clinical stroke.Purpose in Life can predict later health status and outcomes, and is amenable to improvement by social participation with friends, community services, physical activity and health behavior modification.
    These positive lifestyle changes contribute to improved physical and mental health and enhanced quality of life throughout the lifespan.

-*How do you define you Purpose in Life?
-*What factors contribute to Purpose in your Life?
-*How do you intentionally increase your sense of Purpose in Life?

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“Grit” Rivals IQ and EQ to Achieve Goals

Emotional intelligence has been demonstrated to be a better predictor of achievement and performance than measure of intelligence. 

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

One important component of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is perseverance, the consistent, sustained and focused application of talent and effort over time, University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth.  

Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson

She refers to this perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “grit” in her research with West Point cadets and Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants, in collaboration with University of Michigan’ Christopher Peterson and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly of United States Military Academy, West Point.

Grit was not related to IQ but was highly correlated with “Conscientiousness,” a personality trait described in the Five Factor Model of Personality.
It was also a better predictor of “success” as measured by retention at West Point, and advancement in the National Spelling Bee.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews

In addition, “grittier” participants:

  • Achieved higher levels of education
  • Had fewer job switches and career changes
  • Earned higher school grades than their peers, despite having lower standardized test scores measuring intelligence and achievement
  • Devoted more hours to deliberate practice (defined as individual word study and memorization for spelling bee contestants).
Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

The most effective deliberate practice was rated as the least pleasurable, and “grittier” individuals did more of this effort in Duckworth’s expanded study with Teri Kirby, Eli Tsukayama, Heather Berstein,  then of Penn with K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.

Heather Berstein

Heather Berstein

Practice activities rated as more pleasurable and less effortful, like reading for pleasure, being quizzed by their parents, contributed less to spelling performance.

Paul Tough

Paul Tough

Parents and educators found responded enthusiastically to Paul Tough’s popularized summary of “grit” research in his book advising parents and teachers how to help young people develop grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
He “gritty” attributes highly correlated with successful academic and career performance.

Duckworth expanded the investigation of grit to include “explanatory style”, seen in individuals’ propensity to explain events from optimistic or pessimistic perspectives.
Explanatory style is evaluated according to whether the individual considers event causes as:

  • Personal (Internal vs. External cause or influence)
  • Permanent (Stable vs. Unstable)
  • Pervasive (Global vs. Local/Specific)

Optimistic explanatory style is characterized by external, unstable, local / specific explanations, whereas pessimistic styles include internal, stable, global attributions.

Duckwork and team found that novice teachers with more optimistic explanatory styles rated themselves higher in both grit and life satisfaction, and these high ratings were associated with better work effectiveness, as evaluated at the end of the school year.

Eli Tsukayama

Eli Tsukayama

Katherine Von Culin

Katherine Von Culin

Her students, Katherine Von Culin and Eli Tsukayama “unpacked” grit and found different difference in motivation and beliefs for grit’s two components:  perseverance vs passion.
Among more than 300 volunteers, they found that perseverance and passion had different meaning, pleasure, and engagement orientations to happiness and implicit beliefs about willpower.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

The research team is evaluating the relationship between “grit” and “growth mindset,” introduced by Stanford’s Carol Dweck to signify viewing failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than a permanent lack of ability.

ell

ell

Dweck, with Lisa Blackwell, then of Columbia and University of Western Ontario’s Kali Trzesniewski demonstrated the impact of growth mindset and positive explanatory style on school motivation and achievement.

In addition, Duckworth and team are considering ability to delay gratification as a component of grit, since it has been associated with greater self-control and life accomplishment.

More grit may not always lead to greater accomplishment.
Duckworth and team speculate that grittier individuals may be:

  • More vulnerable to the “sunk-cost fallacy
  • Less open to information that contradicts their present beliefs
  • Handicapped by judgment and decision-making biases
  • Likely to new opportunities because they are tenaciously focused on the original goal.
Emilia Lahti

Emilia Lahti

Duckworth‘s colleague at Penn, Emilia Lahti is leading research on grit’s Finnish cousin, “Sisu,” implying perseverance, bravery and stamina, and should report her findings by the end of 2013.

Assess your “grittiness” with the research team’s survey.

-*How accurately does your score reflect your view of your grittiness, perseverance?

-*How do you develop grit in yourself and others?

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Is Optimistic View of the Future Associated with Disabilities, Shorter Life Expectancy?

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang

Frieder Lang of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and German Institute for Economic Research and his colleagues challenged the robust, replicated finding that optimism is associated with positive health outcomes.

David Weiss

David Weiss

Lang with University of Zurich’s David Weiss and Denis Gerstorf of Humboldt-University of Berlin and German Institute for Economic Research examined data from 1993 to 2003  German Socio-Economic Panel household surveys.

Denis Gerstorf

Denis Gerstorf

The team collaborated with Gert Wagner of German Institute for Economic Research and Max Planck Institute for Human Development evaluated approximately ratings from 40,000 people 18 to 96 years old, concerning their current and predicted life satisfaction in five years.

Gert Wagner

Gert Wagner

Their disruptive finding is that participants who expected highest life satisfaction in five years were more likely to experience disability and death within the following decade.

Five years after the first interviews:

  • 43 percent of participants were more satisfied with their lives than predicted,
  • 25 percent predicted accurately
  • 32 percent overestimated their life satisfaction with an optimistic bias.

Lang, Weiss, Gerstorf, and Wagner calculated that overestimating future life satisfaction was related to a 9.5 percent increase in reporting disabilities and a 10 percent increased incidence of death.

The youngest participants had the most optimistic outlook, whereas middle-aged adults made the most accurate predictions, but became more pessimistic over time.

Lauren Alloy

Lauren Alloy

Older adults’ predictions of future life satisfaction may be more accurate, albeit less optimistic, consistent with Shelley Taylor, Ellen Langer, Lauren Alloy, Lyn Abramson and others demonstration of an “optimism bias” and “depressive realism.”

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

In contrast to findings that higher income is associated with better health outcomes, Lang’s team found that stable, good health and income were associated with expecting a greater decline compared with those in poor health or with low incomes.
In contrast to other findings, higher income was related to a greater risk of disability.

Shelley Taylor

Shelley Taylor

Lang and team concluded that the outcomes of optimistic, accurate or pessimistic forecasts may depend on age, available resources, and motivation to adopt health-improving behaviors.
They acknowledged that unrealistic optimism about the future may help people feel better when they are facing inevitable negative outcomes, such as terminal disease.

Neil Weinstein

Neil Weinstein

Similarly, Neil Weinstein of Rutgers found that people may underestimate susceptibility to harm from a variety of hazards.
Close to 300 volunteers across age, gender, educational levels and occupational groups, demonstrated an optimism bias that they were less at risk than peers.

Weinstein hypothesized that optimism bias may be introduced when people extrapolate from their past experience to estimate their future vulnerability.
Therefore, volunteers future expectations may be biased  because they tended not to expect problems they had not already experienced.

He demonstrated that these personal risk judgments were not correlated with volunteers’ actual objective risk factors, suggesting that volunteers did not modify their optimistic biases based on laboratory findings, physical examination, and reported health habits.
Positive illusions persist even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Eric Kim

Eric Kim

These findings that optimistic bias may not be associated with positive health outcomes contrasts with findings from including University of Michigan’s Eric S Kim, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, who found that “Dispositional Optimism” protects older adults from stroke.

George Patton

George Patton

Similarly, George Patton and colleagues at Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Victoria, Australia reported that optimism has a somewhat protective effect on adolescent health risks in a prospective study.

Eric Giltay

Eric Giltay

Yet another counterpoint to Lang and team’s work was offered by Eric Giltay and colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center Johanna Geleijnse, Frans Zitman, Brian Buijsse, and Daan Kromhout, who demonstrated that optimists typically report healthier habits, like less smoking and drinking alcohol, more physical activity and consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole-grain bread.

-*What do you make of these conflicting findings about optimism’s role in health outcomes?

-*How have you seen optimism relate to health outcomes: Does it seem to drive healthy behaviors and outcomes or poorer health?

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