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Explanatory Style - What Is An Explanatory Style?

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Updated May 11, 2011

Definition: This refers to how people explain the events of their lives. There are three facets of how people can explain a situation that can lean toward optimism or pessimism:
  • Stable vs. Unstable: Changing across time or unchanging across time.
  • Global vs. Local: Universal throughout one's life or specific to a part of one's life.
  • Internal vs. External: Cause of an event as within oneself or outside oneself.

Explanatory styles affect how we perceive the world, which can affect our experience of stress as well as our reactions to our stressors. If we have a positive explanatory style, we may feel less stressed by challenging experiences because a positive explanatory style can minimize the perceived severity of stressors--they seem like they're not such a big deal, will be over soon, are not our fault, and will not necessarily recur. Negative explanatory styles tend to create more stress in life, and can make our stressors feel more threatening.

Read about positive and negative explanatory styles. Also, read about he benefits of optimism and learn more about the differences in explanatory styles.

Explanatory styles can be altered, with attention and practice. The following resources can lead to a change in explanatory styles--from a negative explanatory style to a more positive one:

Also Known As: Attributional Style
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