John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Author of Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World That Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Hi, we're talking about how popularity plays a role in long term outcomes,
focusing specifically on depression right now.
And we previously talked about
why it is that some kids that are rejected might go on to be at risk for depression.
But now what we're going to talk about is the idea that there may be some things
that unpopular people do that makes things worse for them.
That actually creates more stress in their lives and
that stress is what makes them depression.
So specifically what we're going to talk about is the idea that,
stress is the number one predictor of experiencing depression.
But there are two types of stress.
Connie Hammen and Karen Rudolph have demonstrated
that some stressors are what we call independent stressors.
They're things that occur to us that really we had absolutely no control over.
So, for instance, if a natural disaster were to come to your community, a tornado,
a hurricane, there's nothing that we did to make that hurricane occur.
So, there's no way in which we contributed to that stressor.
Dependent stressors are things we might have contributed to and
that doesn't mean that it's our fault.
It just means that these are things that have something to do with
our own behaviors from a transactional perspective.
It means that things might have happened that are unjust and unfair and
inappropriate to you.
But there are ways in which your own behavior
might have been part of that experience.
So for instance, a break up, a fight with a partner.
The ending of a friendship, or even getting fired from work.
Sometimes, some of those things have something to do
with the experiences that someone had, the behaviors of their own, sometimes.
And those dependent stressors in those cases might be caused or
contributed to by some of the behaviors that we engage in.
So what I'd like to talk about specifically is a behavior that was talked
about by Jim Coyne and then Thomas Joiner called excessive reassurance-seeking.
It seems that when we feel sad, some level of dysphoria,
it's very common and appropriate for us to turn to our close loved ones or
friends and seek some sort of reassurance.
We might ask everyone around us if everything's okay.
We might ask about the status of our relationship, are we okay?
You seem a little bit weird recently or,
I feel like you're becoming a little bit distant.
I need some reassurance that I'm okay, we're okay, everything is okay.
What happens, interestingly, is that when we get reassurance,
sometimes people hear that reassurance and they don't believe it.
They say, well, you're just saying that to be nice, or you don't
want to confess to me that you're actually not liking me as much anymore.
Because of that, it actually makes us feel pitied, it makes us feel worse, and
it makes us feel more distant to the person we were seeking reassurance from.
So ironically, we ask for
reassurance, but we end up feeling worse after we get the reassurance, than better.
And because of feeling a little bit worse, we ask for reassurance again.
Are you sure we're okay?
How come you didn't text me back,
or how come it seems like you are spending more time with other people now?
And we tend to ask for a little bit more.
Well, we get more reassurance.
And when that happens, this cycle continues.
And some people will go on and continue to ask for more reassurance and
feel worse and so on, and it leads to a cycle.
Well interestingly, if you are the person that has been on the receiving end of this
reassurance-seeking, then you know this can get pretty annoying after a while.
You don't want to have to keep explaining to somebody that everything's okay.
You don't want to have to keep on telling them that you still feel good about them
only to see them not believe you the minute you say it out loud to them.
It's quite frustrating to have somebody not trust your reassurance when
you provide it to them.
So, what happens is that the reassurance-seeker continues to ask for
reassurance from the person from whom it was sought.
And that person who's providing the reassurance ends up
actually getting annoyed, withdrawing, and pulling away from the relationship.
Well ironically, that makes the person who is asking for
reassurance feel like they were right all along, and say, I knew it.
Now you are really breaking up with me,
or now you are actually telling me that I'm annoying you.
And they don't realize that, they might have contributed to the reason why that
person has inter-personally rejected them in the first place.
So this is an interesting theory.
Suggesting that there may be ways, in which, our tendency to ask for
reassurance actually creates the scenario in which we cause stressor in our lives.
And because of that,
we contribute to our own depressive symptoms, without even realizing it.
Well we did a study to look at exactly this, and what we found was that one of
the strongest predictors of engaging in excessive reassurance-seeking was not only
being depressed, but specifically having a history of being rejected by peers.
Those kids that are rejected by others over time
are more likely to engage in that type of reassurance-seeking.
And that's what you see here on the left of this slide.
Interestingly, what you see here on the right was that
those kids who engage in reassurance-seeking, then had friends who
told us that they were no longer enjoying their time with those friends, anymore.
So, in other words, the reassurance-seeker
told us later about their friendship quality with their very best friend.
And the reassurance-seeker didn't see that their friendship was decreasing in
quality, at all.
But their best friend, the person that they were asking for
reassurance from, told us that over time,
they were no longer enjoying spending time with that person.
And they were no longer feeling as close and
excited to interact with the reassurance-seeker.
Really providing nice support for
exactly the model that was initially proposed by others.
Indicating that excessive reassurance-seeking is predicted by
our popularity earlier and
it leads to the creation of stress that we don't even realize is happening.
That ultimately can make us more depressed over time.
So overall what we find in other research studies that have been done by others is
that excessive reassurance-seeking also leads to declines in
romantic relationship quality among adults.
It leads to increases in depression.
And it might be that peer rejection is really something that leads us
to just generally have an insecurity about our
peer relationships in ways that change the way that we care about what we do.
We interpret our stressors, we think about how to interact with others, and
we process social information.
And in some, peer rejection seems to get under our skin and
into our heads in ways that change all of our social interactions for years to come.
And one of those consequences is that it seems to be strongly predictive
of who becomes more depressed over time.
So next we're going to talk about how popularity predicts our engagement and
health risk behaviors.
And, interestingly, the story is very different from what we've seen