The importance of positive cognitive processes in psychological well-being

Noad, Rupert Francis (2002). The importance of positive cognitive processes in psychological well-being. PhD thesis The Open University.



Introduction: Clinical psychologists have traditionally focused on understanding and treating psychological distress, and psychological theories have rarely been applied to understand positive psychological well-being. This project is interested in applying the principles of Cognitive Theory, a well-established model for the mechanisms underpinning psychological disorders, to understanding positive psychological states.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with undergraduate students to investigate how they think when they feel well. Items derived from these interviews were used in the design of two measures of positive cognition (one of positive core-beliefs and one of positive assumptions). These measures were administered to a larger sample of students, in a battery of questionnaires, examining other psychological variables and well-being. The results were analysed, to investigate the relationship between positive cognition and psychological well-being.

Results: The findings provide evidence in support of the psychometric properties of the two measures, suggesting that positive cognitions can be reliably and validly measured. Correlation analyses indicated a positive relationship between positive cognition and psychological well-being. Regression analyses indicated that positive core-beliefs predict psychological well-being, although self-esteem was the best predictor. Core-beliefs had some unique predictive power, when other variables were accounted for.

Discussion: The findings provide some support for the hypothesis that positive cognitions exist and are related to psychological well-being in a way predicted by cognitive theory. The study also produces two measures of positive cognition, which have the potential to be developed and used in future research. Methodological issues are discussed along with the implications of the findings for theory, clinical practice and future research.

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