Gloomy Thinking Can Be Contagious

NPR:

When students show up at college in the fall, they’ll have to deal with new classes, new friends and a new environment. In many cases, they will also have new roommates — and an intriguing new research study suggests this can have important mental health consequences.

At the University of Notre Dame, psychologist Gerald Haeffel has recently obtained results from a natural experiment that unfolds every year at the university. In a in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, Haeffel and co-author Jennifer Hames report that roommates can have strong effects — both positive and negative — on one another’s mental health.

Like many schools, Notre Dame assigns new students their roommates. Haeffel recruited some of the students for a study and measured their psychological predispositions.

One of the things he was interested in was how different students respond to adversity. Take, for example, two hypothetical young scholars who do poorly on a classroom test: “One student fails the exam and thinks to [herself], ‘I’m dumb, I’m worthless. I can’t believe I failed this exam,’” Haeffel says. The same student may also engage in catastrophic thinking, imagining that because she failed the exam, she’s going to fail the class or even flunk out of college.

Read the whole story: NPR

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