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Carolyn M. Aldwin and Ritwik Nath
Erythocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is one of the oldest measures of inflammation. It is used extensively in clinical medicine and has shown some utility in biomedical research. It is a nonspecific inflammation assay, and although it is less sensitive than more modern measures such as C-reactive protein, it is a useful measure in chronic illnesses.
In general, ESR increases with age and appears to be a biomarker of aging in general. It predicts both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer and is elevated in autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Further, it predicts mortality both in the general population and in those with chronic illnesses such as CVD and cancer, independent of other indicators of illness severity.
Interestingly, ESR is not associated with anxiety or general measures of distress but is consistently associated with measures of depression and suicidal ideation. Further, the effect of depressive symptoms on mortality appears to be mediated through increases in ESR.
Studies of the relationship between stress and ESR have been less consistent, primarily because early studies were largely cross-sectional and in small samples. Studies using more modern, longitudinal analyses in larger samples may show more consistent results, especially if multilevel modeling was used that examined within-person changes in ESR in response to stress. Given that other large, longitudinal studies, such as the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, the Rotterdam Study, The Reykjavik Cohort Study, and Women’s Healthy Ageing Study have included ESR in their biomedical assays, it should be possible to analyze existing data to examine how psychosocial factors influence inflamm-aging in humans.
Edward F. Etzel and Leigh A. Skvarla
The field of sport, exercise, and performance psychology (SEPP) has evolved over the past 100 plus years. SEPP includes professional consultants, teachers, researchers, and students from diverse educational and training backgrounds. Persons primarily from the merging of sport science, kinesiology, and professional psychology have shaped SEPP into what it is today. Client populations typically served include athletes, coaches, and exercisers, and more recently, performing artists (musicians, singers, dancers), businesspersons, sports medicine professionals, and military personnel.
These people and phenomena have fashioned an ethical climate that is generally similar to—but in various ways different from—mainstream psychology. While the ethical values and codes of organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) are generally comparable, the perceptions and application of these values and codes in SEPP realms may not match; this is due to the different histories of its membership, as well as the sometimes unusual work demands and atypical settings and circumstances in which SEPP persons function.
For both mainstream psychology and SEPP professionals, developments in technology and social media communications have presented ethical dilemmas for many who seek to maintain regular contact with their clientele. These issues, such as the use of technology in consulting, emphasize the importance of core ethical tenets such as privacy, confidentiality, and competence, among others, in the growing area of telehealth. In view of the rather unique ethical climate within SEPP, teaching applied ethics via classroom discussion, continued education, and sourcebooks is essential. To date, there appears to be a lack of continuity in the training and supervision of SEPP students and young professionals with respect to ethical decision making. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to the current and next generation of scholars, researchers, and practitioners.
Rebecca A. Zakrajsek and Jedediah E. Blanton
It is important for sport and exercise psychology (SEP) professionals to demonstrate that the interventions they employ make a difference. Assessing the degree of an intervention’s effectiveness depends first and foremost on the nature and scope of the intervention (i.e., the objective of the intervention) and its targeted group. Traditionally, interventions have been quite varied between the fields of sport psychology and exercise psychology; a common thread however, can be seen as an enhancement of the sport or exercise experience, along with an attempt to help the individual better self-regulate engagement with the targeted behavior or mindset. The central aim of enhancing the experience and increased self-regulation is oriented toward performance enhancement within sport psychology interventions, whereas within exercise psychology interventions the orientation is toward physical-activity adoption and better exercise program adherence. Although the two fields may have different objectives, it can be argued that sport psychology interventions—specifically psychological skills training (PST) interventions—can inform SEP professionals’ research and applied practices with both the sport and exercise populations.
Psychological skills training includes the strategies and techniques used to develop psychological skills, enhance sport performance, and facilitate a positive approach to competition. Since the early 1980s, a growing body of evidence has supported that the PST interventions SEP professionals employ do make a difference. In particular, evidence from research in sport contexts supports the use of a multimodal approach to PST interventions—combining different types of psychological strategies (e.g., goal-setting, self-talk, imagery, relaxation)—because a multimodal approach has demonstrated positive effects on both psychological skills and sport performance. The research investigating the effectiveness of PST interventions in enhancing performance has primarily centered on adult athletes who compete at competitive or elite levels. Elite athletes are certainly important consumers of SEP services; however, SEP professionals have rightfully challenged researchers and practitioners to target other consumers of SEP services who they argue are as deserving of PST as elite athletes. For example, young athletes and coaches are two populations that have traditionally been overlooked in the PST research. PST interventions targeting young athletes can help them to develop (at the start of their sporting careers) the type of psychological skills that facilitate a positive approach to competition and better abilities to self-regulate their emotional responses to stressful competitive situations. Coaches are also performers with unique needs who could benefit from PST interventions. Researchers have begun to target these two populations and the results might be considered the most intriguing aspects of the current PST literature. Future research related to PST interventions should target exercise populations. Exercise professionals often operate as coaches in healthy behavior change (e.g., strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, etc.) and as such should also employ, and monitor responses to, PST.
To facilitate further development and growth of PST intervention research in both sport and exercise settings, SEP professionals are encouraged to include a comprehensive evaluation of program effectiveness. In particular, four major areas to consider when evaluating PST programs are (a) the quality of the PST service delivery (e.g., the knowledge, delivery style, and characteristics of the SEP professional); (b) assessment of the sport psychological strategies participants used as a result of the PST program; (c) participants’ perceptions of the influence of the PST program on their psychological skills, performance, and enjoyment; and (d) measurement of participants psychological skills, performance, and enjoyment as a result of the PST program.
W. Andrew Achenbaum
Edmund V. Cowdry’s Problems of Ageing (1939), the first U.S. handbook in gerontology, spurred efforts to systematize and communicate data and hypotheses in a “discouragingly difficult field,” as one of the volume’s contributors put it. Researchers, educators, and practitioners subsequently published handbooks of aging to share basic concepts, norms, and metaphors—and eventually to construct theories.
Compared to theoretical constructs that animate African American studies, paradigms that inform inquiries into sex and gender, and queer theory-building, research on aging is sustained by few evidence-based, methodologically robust, heuristic theories. No single construct yet seizes the gerontological imagination. Analyzing notable handbooks reveals that the modern history of ever-emerging gerontological theory building went through three phases.
First, attempts to formulate Big Theories of Aging resulted in more disappointments than scientific advances. In the second phase, researchers on aging set more modest aims, often giving priority to methodological innovation, but failed to promote consilience in a data-rich, theory-poor arena. Psychological theories, pertaining to lifespan development, merit special attention in the third phase, because they proved useful to biomedical and social scientists doing research on aging.
Christiane A. Hoppmann, Theresa Pauly, Victoria I. Michalowski, and Urs M. Nater
Everyday salivary cortisol is a popular biomarker that is uniquely suited to address key lifespan developmental questions. Specifically, it can be used to shed light on the time-varying situational characteristics that elicit acute stress responses as individuals navigate their everyday lives across the adult lifespan (intraindividual variability). It is also well suited to identify more stable personal characteristics that shape the way that individuals appraise and approach the stressors they encounter across different life phases (interindividual differences). And it is a useful tool to disentangle the mechanisms governing the complex interplay between situational and person-level processes involving multiple systems (gain-loss dynamics). Applications of this biomarker in areas of functioning that are core to lifespan developmental research include emotional experiences, social contextual factors, and cognition. Methodological considerations need to involve careful thought regarding sampling frames, potential confounding variables, and data screening procedures that are tailored to the research question at hand.
Alan E. Kazdin
Research in psychotherapy has developed a number of treatments, numbering well over 300, that have a strong evidence base. These treatments can be applied to a broad range of psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others) as well as other sources of impairment in psychological functioning among children, adolescents, and adults. This article provides an overview of evidence-based psychotherapies, including current advances in how treatments are applied. Examples of treatments for depression and autism spectrum disorder are provided to illustrate the diversity of procedures in use and how they are applied. Key challenges related to evidence-based psychotherapies are highlighted, and these include disseminating the research findings, so that effective treatments are being used in clinical practice, and devising novel ways of delivering treatment to reach the large number of individuals who are in need of psychological services but do not yet receive care.
Aaron L. Slusher and Edmund O. Acevedo
Physical activity is essential for optimal human functioning. However, the emergence of modern lifestyle conveniences has contributed to the increased prevalence of sedentary behavior. As a result, the psychobiological nature of physical activity and the positive impact of physical activity on body and brain communication has prompted investigators to utilize a breadth of research strategies and techniques to identify physical activity regimes, associated mental health benefits, and the plausible mechanisms that explain the mental health adaptations. Furthermore, investigators have provided evidence supporting a number of mechanisms that at least partially explain the psychological adaptations to acute (a single bout) and chronic (long-term) physical activity intervention. Through these efforts, the observed efficacy of physical activity as a potential therapeutic intervention strategy to ameliorate the most prevalent mental disorders (i.e., anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia), and to enhance mental illness-related and age-related impairments of cognitive function has received some attention in the literature and will likely lead to clarity and confidence for clinical use.
There is no doubt that exercise, a vital health-promoting activity, regardless of health status, produces numerous well-established physical, functional, and mental health benefits. Many people, however, do not adhere to medical recommendations to exercise consistently, especially if they have chronic illnesses. Put forth to explain this conundrum are numerous potential explanatory factors. Among these are mental health correlates such as anxiety, fear, fatigue, pain, motivation, and depression, as well as various self-efficacy perceptions related to exercise behaviors, which may be important factors to identify and intervene upon in the context of promoting adherence to physical activity recommendations along with efforts to reduce the cumulative health and economic burden of exercise non-adherence among the chronically ill and those at risk for chronic illnesses.
Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg
Terror management theory (TMT) posits that the uniquely human awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating existential terror that is “managed” by subscribing to cultural worldviews providing a sense that life has meaning as well as opportunities to obtain self-esteem, in pursuit of psychological equanimity in the present and literal or symbolic immortality in the future. In empirical support of TMT, research has demonstrated that: self-esteem serves to buffer anxiety in general, and about death in particular; reminders of death increase defense of the cultural worldview and efforts to bolster self-esteem; threats to the cultural worldview or self-esteem increase the accessibility of implicit death thoughts; conscious and non-conscious thoughts of death instigate qualitatively different defensive processes; death reminders increase hostility toward people with different beliefs, affection for charismatic leaders, and support for political and religious extremism; and death reminders magnify symptoms of psychological disorders.
Michaela Riediger and Antje Rauers
Experience-sampling methodology (ESM) captures everyday events and experiences during, or shortly after, their natural occurrence in people’s daily lives. It is typically implemented with mobile devices that participants carry with them as they pursue their everyday routines, and that signal participants multiple times a day throughout several days or weeks to report on their momentary experiences and situation. ESM provides insights into short-term within-person variations and daily-life contexts of experiences, which are essential aspects of human functioning and development. ESM also can ameliorate some of the challenges in lifespan-developmental methodology, in particular those imposed by age-comparative designs. Compared to retrospective or global self-reports, for example, ESM can reduce potential non-equivalence of measures caused by age differences in the susceptibility to retrospective memory biases. Furthermore, ESM maximizes ecological validity compared to studies conducted in artificial laboratory contexts, which is a key concern when different age groups may differentially respond to unfamiliar situations. Despite these strengths, ESM also bears significant challenges related to potential sample selectivity and selective sample attrition, participants’ compliance and diligence, measurement reactivity, and missing responses. In age-comparative research, these challenges may be aggravated if their prevalence varies depending on participants’ age. Applications of ESM in lifespan methodology therefore require carefully addressing each of these challenges when planning, conducting, and analyzing a study, and this article provides practical guidelines for doing so. When adequately applied, experience sampling is a powerful tool in lifespan-developmental methodology, particularly when implemented in long-term longitudinal and cross-sequential designs.
Sara Honn Qualls and Lacey Edwards
Family systems therapy seeks to alter the structure or processes of a family for the purposes of reducing distress in one or more persons and improving the ability of the family to meet members’ needs. Building from a general systems paradigm, family systems therapy recognizes that family structures shift over time as they respond to members’ developmental processes and broader system demands. As members enter and exit or change capacity, and as external stressors arise, the family typically uses adaptive processes to demonstrate resilience. Family systems therapy is useful when the family struggles to adapt, or the adaptation strategy further stresses the family.
Multiple models of family systems therapies offer variations in intervention approaches but have common tenets. Major models include Ackerman’s early psychodynamics model, transgenerational models of family therapy, structural family therapy, strategic family therapy, and communications approaches to family therapy. Models vary in their recommended roles for the therapist, strategies for therapist and family, and the salience of immediate versus longer-term goals. Family systems therapies conceptualize family interactions as complex, reciprocal, open, self-organizing, adaptive, social constructionist, and meaning-making.
Family systems therapy also can be used with systems larger than families, such as schools or organizations, or to understand cultural phenomena. The field of marriage and family therapy has defined competencies for practice, training requirements, and licensure standards and established national and international professional organizations.
Loredana A. Marchica and Jeffrey L. Derevensky
With the gambling market continuously shifting and evolving, one form of gambling has uninterruptedly remained a staple in most cultures. Sports wagering has been and remains one of the most popular forms of gambling, especially among males. With the increase in the gambling market, sports wagering has also grown into the online gambling and fantasy sports wagering markets. These escalations in popularity have brought substantial revenue to sports wagering operators and have influenced government officials, policymakers, legislation researchers, the media, and the general public. There are two major groups of issues that surround sports wagering: sports wagering as an economic and tax-generating entity and the integrity of the game. More recently, a concern over problem gambling from a public health perspective has evolved. It is equally important that these issues be considered when creating or changing legislation around sports wagering.
Diane L. Gill
Gender and cultural diversity are ever-present and powerful in sport, exercise, and performance settings. Our cultural identities affect our behaviors and interactions with others. As professionals, we must recognize and value cultural diversity. Gender and culture are best understood within a multicultural framework that recognizes multiple, intersecting identities; power relations; and the action for social justice. Physical activity participants are culturally diverse in many ways, but in other ways cultural groups are excluded from participation, and especially from power (e.g., leadership roles).
Sport, exercise, and performance psychology have barely begun to address cultural diversity, and the limited scholarship focuses on gender. Although the participation of girls and women has increased dramatically in recent years, stereotypes and media representations still convey the message that sport is a masculine activity. Stereotypes and social constraints are attached to other cultural groups, and those stereotypes affect behavior and opportunities. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and physical characteristics all limit opportunities in physical activity settings. People who are overweight or obese are particularly subject to bias and discrimination in sport and physical activity. Cultural competence, which refers to the ability to work effectively with people of a different culture, is essential for professionals in sport, exercise, and performance psychology. Not only is it important for individuals to develop their own cultural awareness, understanding, and skills, but we must advocate for inclusive excellence in our programs and organizations to expand our reach and promote physical activity for the health and well-being of all.
Thekla Morgenroth and Michelle K. Ryan
Understanding gender and gender differences is a prevalent aim in many psychological subdisciplines. Social psychology has tended to employ a binary understanding of gender and has focused on understanding key gender stereotypes and their impact. While women are seen as warm and communal, men are seen as agentic and competent. These stereotypes are shaped by, and respond to, social contexts, and are both descriptive and prescriptive in nature. The most influential theories argue that these stereotypes develop in response to societal structures, including the roles women and men occupy in society, and status differences between the sexes. Importantly, research clearly demonstrates that these stereotypes have a myriad of effects on individuals’ cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors and contribute to sexism and gender inequality in a range of domains, from the workplace to romantic relationships.
Laura Healy, Alison Tincknell-Smith, and Nikos Ntoumanis
Within sporting contexts, goal setting is a commonly used technique that can lead to enhanced performance. Recommendations for goal setting have been widely embraced in sport and performance settings by researchers, practitioners, athletes, and coaches. However, it could be argued that these recommendations are overly simplistic, and that a lack of critical commentary in the sporting literature fails to acknowledge the complexity of goal setting in practice. For example, there has been limited acknowledgement within the applied recommendations of important factors such as personal differences with those individuals setting goals, contextual and environmental factors, and the characteristics of goals being pursed. Equally, the focus of goal setting research and practice has predominantly been on goal progress or goal attainment, thus overlooking the wider benefits of effective goal pursuit on additional aspects such as well-being. Similarly, the interactions between these factors has gained little attention with the academic literature or applied recommendations. This may result in diminished effectiveness of goal setting for athletes, and ultimately lead to sub-optimal performance and well-being.
Critical and comprehensive reviews of the literature are timely and necessary, in order to develop a deeper understanding of goal setting in sport and performance. Combining research from both within sport and from theorists examining goals within other contexts can enhance our understanding of how to promote and support adaptive goal pursuit within sport and performance. Overall, this may lead to more appropriate and useful recommendations for researchers, athletes, coaches, and applied practitioners, ensuring that goal setting can be an effective technique for a range of individuals within sport and performance contexts.
Gary P. Latham
Consciously setting a specific, difficult, challenging goal leads to high performance for four reasons. Specificity results in (1) the choice to focus on goal-relevant activities and to ignore those that are irrelevant. Challenge leads to an increase in (2) effort and (3) persistence to attain the goal. The combination of specificity and difficulty cue (4) the search for strategies to attain the goal. However, for this to occur, an individual or team must have the ability and the situational resources to attain the goal. In addition, the goal must be important; there must be commitment to goal attainment. Finally, feedback must be provided on goal progress so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, regarding effort or strategy for attaining the goal.
Robert A. Neimeyer and Melissa A. Smigelsky
Death and loss are universal human experiences, yet understandings of and attitudes toward expressing grief have shifted across time. The earliest psychological conceptualization of grief pathologized “holding on” to the lost object, a notion that has since been rejected in favor of a conception of continuing bonds that can be adaptive in grief. Similarly, early stage theories of grieving suggested a linear progression toward resolution and acceptance of loss, which has been criticized in favor of approaches that allow for natural regulatory processes of attending to the loss and reengaging with a changed world. In sum, grief is no longer regarded solely as looking back on a past life with the deceased but rather is oriented toward creating and reconstructing a meaningful present and future that accommodate the loss and its impact.
Most people respond adaptively to loss by relying on their internal and social support systems. However, a significant subset of grievers struggles with complicated grief, which is characterized by intense longing for the deceased, causes impairment in various life domains, and extends beyond the period of grieving that is considered normal for the population and culture. Grief therapy is most appropriate and advantageous for grievers who self-identify the need for additional support, and this tends to happen among those who are struggling disproportionately. Complicated grief shares features with other common psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., Major Depressive Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), as well as being characterized by distinctive separation distress regarding the deceased. Treatment for complicated grief targets the common symptoms among these disorders as well as the grief-specific manifestations of distress that are concentrated on issues of coping, attachment, meaning, and behavior.
R. Scott Tindale and Jeremy R. Winget
Group decisions are ubiquitous in everyday life. Even when decisions are made individually, decision-makers often receive advice or suggestions from others. Thus, decisions are often social in nature and involve multiple group members. The literature on group decision-making is conceptualized as falling along two dimensions: how much interaction or information exchange is allowed among the group members, and how the final decision is made. On one end, group decisions can be made simply by aggregating member preferences or judgments without any interaction among members, with members having no control or say in the final judgment. One the other end, groups’ decisions can involve extensive member interaction and information exchanges, and the final decision is reached by group consensus. In between these two endpoints, various other strategies are also possible, including prediction markets, Delphi groups, and judge–advisor systems. Research has shown that each dimension has different implications for decision quality and process depending on the decision task and context. Research exploring these two dimension has also helped to illuminate those aspects of group decision-making that can lead to better-quality decisions.
Group process refers to the behaviors of the members of small working groups (usually between three and twelve members) as they engage in decision-making and task performance. Group process includes the study of how group members’ characteristics interact with the behavior of group members to create effective or ineffective group performance. Relevant topics include the influences of group norms, group roles, group status, group identity, and group social interaction as they influence group task performance and decision-making, the development and change of groups over time, group task typologies, and decision-making schemes. Relevant group outcomes include group cohesion, process losses and process gains in performance, free riding, ineffective information sharing, difficulties in brainstorming, groupthink, and group polarization. Other variables that influence effective group process include group member diversity, task attractiveness, and task significance. A variety of techniques are used to improve group process.
Benjamin Gardner and Amanda L. Rebar
Within psychology, the term habit refers to a process whereby contexts prompt action automatically, through activation of mental context–action associations learned through prior performances. Habitual behavior is regulated by an impulsive process, and so can be elicited with minimal cognitive effort, awareness, control, or intention. When an initially goal-directed behavior becomes habitual, action initiation transfers from conscious motivational processes to context-cued impulse-driven mechanisms. Regulation of action becomes detached from motivational or volitional control. Upon encountering the associated context, the urge to enact the habitual behavior is spontaneously triggered and alternative behavioral responses become less cognitively accessible.
By virtue of its cue-dependent automatic nature, theory proposes that habit strength will predict the likelihood of enactment of habitual behavior, and that strong habitual tendencies will tend to dominate over motivational tendencies. Support for these effects has been found for many health-related behaviors, such as healthy eating, physical activity, and medication adherence. This has stimulated interest in habit formation as a behavior change mechanism: It has been argued that adding habit formation components into behavior change interventions should shield new behaviors against motivational lapses, making them more sustainable in the long-term. Interventions based on the habit-formation model differ from non-habit-based interventions in that they include elements that promote reliable context-dependent repetition of the target behavior, with the aim of establishing learned context–action associations that manifest in automatically cued behavioral responses. Interventions may also seek to harness these processes to displace an existing “bad” habit with a “good” habit.
Research around the application of habit formation to health behavior change interventions is reviewed, drawn from two sources: extant theory and evidence regarding how habit forms, and previous interventions that have used habit formation principles and techniques to change behavior. Behavior change techniques that may facilitate movement through discrete phases in the habit formation trajectory are highlighted, and techniques that have been used in previous interventions are explored based on a habit formation framework. Although these interventions have mostly shown promising effects on behavior, the unique impact on behavior of habit-focused components and the longevity of such effects are not yet known. As an intervention strategy, habit formation has been shown to be acceptable to intervention recipients, who report that through repetition, behaviors gradually become routinized. Whether habit formation interventions truly offer a route to long-lasting behavior change, however, remains unclear.