Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 633-649

First online:

Explanatory Style as a Risk Factor for Traumatic Mishaps

  • Christopher PetersonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Michael P. BishopAffiliated withSchool of Public Health, University of Michigan
  • , Christopher W. FletcherAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Mara R. KaplanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • , Erika S. YeskoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Case Western Reserve University
  • , Christina H. MoonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Kansas
  • , Joshua S. SmithAffiliated withDepartments of Psychiatry and Surgery, University of Michigan
  • , Claire E. MichaelsAffiliated withMindBody Medicine of Portland
  • , Andrew J. MichaelsAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Emanuel Hospital

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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 traumatic 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 individuals may be motivated to escape negative moods by preferring exciting but risky courses of action.

explanatory style trauma accidents