In collaboration with colleagues, I study how people overcome personal failures, health crisis, age-related vulnerabilities, and the stigmatization
of others. My work is guided by the premise that people seek to make sense of their personal experiences, and in so doing, engage in explanatory
thinking (casual thinking). The recurring theme is that dysfunctional explanatory thinking predicts maladaptive outcomes that include academic failure, poor health,
longer hospital stays, and mortality.
The same dysfunctional mind-sets that lead to cognitive, emotional, and motivational deficits in young adults can also contribute to psychological and
physical impairment in older adults. Whether focusing on youth coping with failure, on the motivations of people who stigmatize others, or on older
adults struggling with cognitive and physical deficits, my research targets the liabilities of dysfunctional causal reasoning.
To ameliorate maladaptive mind-sets, congitive treatment interventions have been developed to improve the emotional and psychological well-being of vulnerable individuals in a
variety of settings. Giving these treatments to people suffering the vicissitudes of old age can help them adapt to onerous life circumstances.
In competitive achievement settings, such treatments can improve the psychological and emotional well-being of failure-prone students and produce marked
improvements in grades throughout their undergraduate years. In practical terms, such treatments can be instrumental to young adults persisting in their academic
programs and embarking on more productive career paths.