Research has established the health benefits of psychological factors, including the way individuals appraise outcomes. Although many studies confirm that appraising outcomes as controllable is adaptive for health, a paradoxical possibility is largely ignored: Perceived control may be detrimental under some conditions. Our premise was that appraising health as controllable but at the same time ascribing little value to it might signal a dysfunctional psychological mindset that fosters a mistaken sense of invincibility. During face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of older adults (age range = 72–99), we identified individuals with such a potentially maladaptive “invincible” mindset (high perceived control and low health value) and compared them to their counterparts on several outcomes. The findings were consistent with our hypotheses. The invincibles denied future risks, they lacked the activating emotion of fear, and they visited their physicians less often over a subsequent five-year period. Moreover, in contrast to their counterparts, the invincibles did not appear strategic in their approach to seeking care: Even poor health did not prompt them to seek the counsel of a physician. The recognition that psychological appraisals are modifiable highlights the promise of remedial methods to alter maladaptive mindsets, potentially improving quality of life.
Institute for Positive Psychology and Education
Open Access Journal Article
Chipperfield, J. G, Perry, R. P, Pekrun, R., Barchfeld, P., Lang, F. R & Hamm, JM. (2016). The paradoxical role of perceived control in late life health behavior. PLoS One,11(3), K. Aalto-Setala. 1-16. United States of America: Public Library of Science. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148921