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Concept: Existentialism


The quality of the therapeutic alliance (TA) has been invoked to explain the equal effectiveness of different psychotherapies, but prior research is correlational, and does not address the possibility that individuals who form good alliances may have good outcomes without therapy.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mental health, Therapy, Clinical psychology, Psychosis, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Existentialism


Although humans measure time using a continuous scale, certain numerical ages inspire greater self-reflection than others. Six studies show that adults undertake a search for existential meaning when they approach a new decade in age (e.g., at ages 29, 39, 49, etc.) or imagine entering a new epoch, which leads them to behave in ways that suggest an ongoing or failed search for meaning (e.g., by exercising more vigorously, seeking extramarital affairs, or choosing to end their lives).

Concepts: Time, Age, Real number, Existentialism, Philosophy of life, Green Line, Adultery, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority


Poor mental health literacy and negative attitudes toward individuals with mental health disorders may impede optimal help-seeking for symptoms of mental ill-health. The present study examined the ability to recognize cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender, as well as individual psychological differences in attitudes toward persons with depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Health, Person, Illness, Health literacy, Mental disorder, Existentialism, Individual


Societal conditions associated with overstimulation or understimulation may precipitate and maintain oppression among individuals and communities by inducing dissociation. Distortion of reality and the flooding of everyday awareness with irrelevant information by mass media is a type of community-wide overstimulation. Alternatively, stimulus deprivation enables single-minded thinking to be narrowly preoccupied with rigid religious ideas, traditional rituals, and postmodern thought and behavior patterns. Provoked sex is utilized as a soothing tool for those who live in overstimulation and as an opportunity for transient enjoyment and rejuvenation for those who live in stimulus deprivation. Chronic exposure to disproportionate stimuli resurrects the trauma-based developmental detachment between the sociological and psychological selves of the individual at the cost of the latter. The enlarged sociological self of the individual is misused to induce a conforming identity transformation of individuals and entire communities that is a prerequisite to setting and maintaining an oppressive system. Constituting overstimulation itself, the enduring fear of chaos in a world akin to crisis enables deliberate acceptance of oppression to restore a sense of control. In fact, the expectancy of crisis triggers the trauma-related dissociative fears of individual internal chaos, which are misused, in turn, to aggravate fears of external chaos again. By facilitating the denial of internal fears rather than integrating them, psychological theories and practices of the past century have failed in addressing the problem of individual and societal oppression.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Mind, Thought, Behavior, Existentialism, Social sciences, Oppression


Until now, most existentially focused cancer research has been conducted within adult populations. Only a handful of qualitative investigations have captured the experiences of children with cancer relative to themes such as existential fear and finitude, meaning/meaninglessness, uncertainty, authenticity, and inauthenticity.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Existentialism, Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, Angst, Authenticity, Anguish


Objective: To review the evidence on the efficacy of different types of existential therapies: a family of psychological interventions that draw on themes from existential philosophy to help clients address such issues in their lives as meaning and death anxiety. Method: Relevant electronic databases, journals, and reference lists were searched for eligible studies. Effects on meaning, psychopathology (anxiety and depression), self-efficacy, and physical well-being were extracted from each publication or obtained directly from its authors. All types of existential therapy for adult samples were included. Weighted pooled mean effects were calculated and analyses performed assuming fixed-effects model. Results: Twenty-one eligible randomized controlled trials of existential therapy were found, from which 15 studies with unique data were included, comprising a total of 1,792 participants. Meaning therapies (n = 6 studies) showed large effects on positive meaning in life immediately postintervention (d = 0.65) and at follow-up (d = 0.57), and had moderate effects on psychopathology (d = 0.47) and self-efficacy (d = 0.48) at postintervention; they did not have significant effects on self-reported physical well-being (n = 1 study). Supportive-expressive therapy (n = 5) had small effects at posttreatment and follow-up on psychopathology (d = 0.20, 0.18, respectively); effects on self-efficacy and self-reported physical well-being were not significant (n = 1 and n = 4, respectively). Experiential-existential (n = 2) and cognitive-existential therapies (n = 1) had no significant effects. Conclusion: Despite the small number and low quality of studies, some existential therapies appear beneficial for certain populations. We found particular support for structured interventions incorporating psychoeducation, exercises, and discussing meaning in life directly and positively with physically ill patients. It is important to study more precisely which existential intervention works the best for which individual client. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial, Efficacy, Existentialism, Existential therapy, Søren Kierkegaard


Dignity therapy is psychotherapy to relieve psychological and existential distress in patients at the end of life. Little is known about its effect.

Concepts: Psychology, Life, Palliative care, Philosophy, Psychotherapy, Existentialism, Nursing specialties


Physician-assisted dying (assisted suicide and euthanasia) is currently an intensely discussed topic in several countries. Despite differences in legislation and application, countries with end-of-life laws have similar eligibility criteria for assistance in dying: individuals must be in a hopeless situation and experience unbearable suffering. Hopelessness, as a basic aspect of the human condition, is a central topic in Albert Camus' philosophical work The Myth of Sisyphus, which addresses the question of suicide. Suffering in the face of a hopeless situation, and the way doctors approach this suffering, is the topic of his novel The Plague, which describes the story of a city confronted with a plague epidemic. In this paper, I draw philosophical and ethical conclusions about physician-assisted dying based on an analysis of central concepts in the work of Camus-specifically, those treated in The Myth of Sisyphus and The Plague. On the basis of my interpretation of Camus' work, I argue that hopelessness and unbearable suffering are useless as eligibility criteria for physician-assisted dying, given that they do not sufficiently elucidate where the line should be drawn between patients who should to be eligible for assistance and those who should not.

Concepts: Death, Existentialism, Suicide, The Plague, Albert Camus, The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, Absurdism


Self-deception is widespread in humans even though it can lead to disastrous consequences such as airplane crashes and financial meltdowns. Why is this potentially harmful trait so common? A controversial theory proposes that self-deception evolved to facilitate the deception of others. We test this hypothesis in the real world and find support for it: Overconfident individuals are overrated by observers and underconfident individuals are judged by observers to be worse than they actually are. Our findings suggest that people may not always reward the more accomplished individual but rather the more self-deceived. Moreover, if overconfident individuals are more likely to be risk-prone then by promoting them we may be creating institutions, including banks and armies, which are more vulnerable to risk. Our results reveal practical solutions for assessing individuals that circumvent the influence of self-deception and can be implemented in a range of organizations including educational institutions.

Concepts: Empiricism, Theory, Existentialism, Individual, The Real World, The Real, Deception, Self-deception


We formulated, tested, and supported, in 6 studies, a theoretical model according to which individuals use nostalgia as a way to reinject meaningfulness in their lives when they experience boredom. Studies 1-3 established that induced boredom causes increases in nostalgia when participants have the opportunity to revert to their past. Studies 4 and 5 examined search for meaning as a mediator of the effect of boredom on nostalgia. Specifically, Study 4 showed that search for meaning mediates the effect of state boredom on nostalgic memory content, whereas Study 5 demonstrated that search for meaning mediates the effect of dispositional boredom on dispositional nostalgia. Finally, Study 6 examined the meaning reestablishment potential of nostalgia during boredom: Nostalgia mediates the effect of boredom on sense of meaningfulness and presence of meaning in one’s life. Nostalgia counteracts the meaninglessness that individuals experience when they are bored. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Attention, Existentialism, All rights reserved, Meaning, The Opportunity, Boredom, Emotions, Nostalgia