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Explanatory style

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Explanatory style is a psychological attribute that indicates how people explain to themselves why they are victims of a negative event. Psychologists have identified three components in explanatory style:

  • internality (whether the event is the person's responsibility or someone else's)
  • stability (whether the event will continue indefinitely or end soon)
  • globality (whether the event will affect every aspect of a person's life or only a few)

People who generally tend to blame themselves for negative events, believe that such events will continue indefinitely, and let such events affect many aspects of their lives display what is called a pessimistic explanatory style. Conversely, people who generally tend to blame others for negative events, believe that such events will end soon, and do not let such events affect too many aspects of their lives display what is called an optimistic explanatory style.

Some research has linked a pessimistic explanatory style to depression and physical illness. It is important to note that the concept of explanatory style encompasses a wide range of possible responses to negative occurrences, rather than a black-white difference between optimism and pessimism. Also, an individual does not necessarily show a uniform explanatory style in all aspects of life, but may exhibit varying responses to different types of negative events.


See alsoEdit

References & BibliographyEdit

Key textsEdit

BooksEdit

  • Buchanan, G. and Seligman, M.E.P. (Eds.). (1995). Explanatory Style. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

PapersEdit

  • Burns, M. O., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1991). Explanatory style, helplessness, and depression. In C.R. Snyder, & D.R. Forsyths (Eds.), Handbook of social and clinical psychology. New York: Pergamon Press, 267-284.
  • Colligan, R., Offord, K., Malinchoc, M., Schulman, P., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1994). CAVEing the MMPI: Seligman's attributional model and the assessment of explanatory style. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 50, 71-95.
  • Burns, M., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1989). Explanatory style across the life span: Evidence for stability over 52 years. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 118-124.
  • Kamen, L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1987). Explanatory style and health. In M. Johnston, & T. Marteau (Eds.), Current Psychological Research and Reviews: Special issue on health psychology, 6, 207-218 Self-Administered training in the CAVE technique: Content analysis of verbatim explanations.
    • Satterfield, J. M., Acree, M., & Folkman, S. (2002). Explanatory style predicts depressive symptoms following AIDS-related bereavement. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26, 393-403.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (1989). Explanatory style: Predicting depression, achievement, and health. In M.D. Yapko (Ed.), Brief therapy approaches to treating anxiety and depression. N.Y.: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 5-32.
  • Seligman, H. E. P., Peterson, C., Schulman, P., & Castellon, C. (1992). The explanatory style scoring manual. In C.P. Smith (Ed.), Motivation and personality: Handbook of thematic content analysis. Cambridge University Press, 383.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (1989). Explanatory style: Predicting depression, achievement, and health. In M.D. Yapko (Ed.), Brief therapy approaches to treating anxiety and depression. N.Y.: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 5-32.
  • Seligman, M. E. P., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1987). Explanatory style and depression. In D. Magnusson, & A. Ohman, (Eds.), Psychopathology: An interactional perspective. New York: Academic Press, 125-139.
  • Schulman, P., Castellon, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1989). Assessing explanatory style: The content analysis of verbatim explanations and the Attributional Style Questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 27, 505-512.
  • Seligman, M. E. P., Castellon, C., Cacciola, J., Schulman, P., Luborsky, L., Ollove, M., & Downing, R. (1988). Explanatory style change during cognitive therapy for unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 1-6.

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