Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms


Trait negative affect has emerged as a fundamental psychological dimension that can undermine mental health and well-being. Although recent evidence indicates that negative affect often declines over time, the malleable psychological mechanisms that predict these declines are not yet fully understood. The authors tested whether positive automatic thoughts (PATs) predicted negative affect through a positive relationship with self-esteem and hence an inverse relationship with negative automatic thoughts. Measures of these constructs were administered to 161 undergraduates. Consistent with theory and hypotheses, self-esteem and negative thoughts fully mediated the relationship between PATs and trait negative affect: PATs predicted higher self-esteem, which predicted less frequent negative thoughts. Negative thoughts directly predicted negative affect. The cross-sectional structural equation model accounted for 65% of the variance in negative affect. An alternative model in which self-esteem was construed as predicting PATs, and hence negative thoughts and negative affect, was not supported. © 2012 Springer Publishing Company.

Publication Title

Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy