P1: GTJ/RKP P2: MRM
Cognitive Therapy and Research [cotr] PP318-363208 November 16, 2001 17:49 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 25, No. 6, December 2001 (
2001), pp. 633–649
Explanatory Style as a Risk Factor for Traumatic Mishaps
Michael P. Bishop,
Christopher W. Fletcher,
Mara R. Kaplan,
Erika S. Yesko,
Christina H. Moon,
Joshua S. Smith,
Claire E. Michaels,
and Andrew J. Michaels
Six studies investigated a possible link between hopeless explanatory style—that is, the
habitual explanation of bad events with stable and global causes—and risk for trau-
matic injuries. In samples of college students, dancers, athletes, and trauma patients
(total n = 2274), stable and global explanations for bad events correlated with the
occurrence of mishaps. The link appeared to be mediated in part by a preference for
potentially hazardous settings and activities in response to negative moods associated
with hopelessness. Taken together, these ﬁndings suggest that catastrophizing individu-
als may be motivated to escape negative moods by preferring exciting but risky courses
KEY WORDS: explanatory style; trauma; accidents.
In a study of psychological risk factors for untimely death, Peterson, Seligman,
Yurko, Martin, and Friedman (1998) discovered that individuals who as young adults
explained the causes of bad events with pervasive and long-lasting causes were more
likely decades later to die from accidents. This ﬁnding was unanticipated because
of speculation that explanatory style is linked to poor health by immunological
or cardiological pathways or both (Peterson & Bossio, 1991; Peterson, Maier, &
Seligman, 1993). Nonetheless, the ﬁnding makes sense given that explanatory style
emerged from the attributional reformulation of helplessness theory, where it is con-
sidered a distal inﬂuence on helpless behavior (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale,
1978). People who explain bad events with causes that are general across time and
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.
School of Public Health, University of Michigan.
Department of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University.
Department of Psychology, University of Kansas.
Departments of Psychiatry and Surgery, University of Michigan.
MindBody Medicine of Portland, Oregon.
Department of Surgery, Emanuel Hospital, Portland, Oregon.
Correspondence should be directed to Christopher Peterson, Department of Psychology, University of
Pennsylvania, 3815 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2001 Plenum Publishing Corporation