Have you ever thought about what it means to be mentally healthy? You might come away
thinking that to be mentally healthy means you do not have a diagnosable mental disorder or
mental disability. But you might think otherwise. Mental health, as you may propose, is not simply
the absence of mental illness but something much more positive. You might imagine a mentally
healthy person as happy, thriving, and flourishing in life. You reason: Height and weight are 2
distinct physical features of people, and perhaps mental health and mental illness are 2 distinct
psychological features of people. Your task is to understand the meaning of mental health. What
are the characteristics of a mentally healthy person? Can a subset of people be identified who show
optimal mental health and who might be classified as flourishing? Is complete mental health more
than the absence of mental illness?
Excited by these questions, you start to think more formally about how to cast your ideas into a
psychological theory. A psychological theory is important because it will provide a conceptual
framework for your study. It specifies the conceptual meaning of key terms and it identifies how
variables are to be measured or operationalized.
-in short a conceptual framework can be thought of as a network of interlocking relationships
linking theoretical ideas to concrete variables and their measurements
In a scientific theory, abstract concepts are formally referred to as constructs.
Construct: specified in a theory in order to describe, explain, and predict a wide range of related
Constructs that are studied in psychology, such as intelligence, personality, memory, anxiety, or
attention, are not directly observable material entities. Not is a breadth and depth of a construct
fully captured by any single referent, indicator, or variable. Rather, a construct encompasses
several referents or indicators, which are cast as variables that in turn can be measured by
collecting data from multiple instruments, such as physiological recordings, objective pencil-and-
paper tests, and behaviour rating scales.
-quality of a construt depnds on extent to which datar collected from its multiple indicators cohere
into consistent and logical patterns of relationships
A construct needs to be translated into an operational definition; provides a recipe for specifying
variables that are to be used to measure a construct. For example, the construct of anxiety can be
operationalized in the form of 3 distinct variablesmeasures of psychophysiology, observational
ratings, and self-report. These represent 3 different dependent variables of the same construct,
anxiety. An operational definition of a construct is, however, not limited to specifying how to
measure it. Rather, in laboratory studies, an operational definition spells out the conditions under
which the construct is expected to occur. That is, an operational definition identifies the
independent variables that are expected to produce the construct.
Consider, for example, a lab study by Bushman aimed at investigating conditions that produce
interpersonal violence. Here interpersonal violence represents the construct under investigation. The researchers first devised a lab task that is intended to simulate conditions under which
interpersonal violence is theorized to occur. What can they ethically research participants do that
will make them respond violently to another person? What lab task would approximate conditions
that lead to interpersonal violence in the real world? Likewise, what dependent variable could be
used to measure the effect of a lab task on interpersonal violence?
-extent to which a study or experiment approximates the actual real-life phenomenon under
investigation refers to ecological validity
The study began with an ordinary task in which research participants wrote brief essays expressing
their opinions on abortion that they thought would be critically evaluated by another participant.
The researchers in reality randomly marked the essays as good (No suggestions. Great essay!) or
bad (This is one of the worst essays I have ever read!). Next the participants competed in a
reaction-time test against the person they believed had marked their essays. The researchers rigged
the game so that all participants, regardless of whether they were insulted or praised, always won.
When they won, the research participants were told that they could blast their opponent with a loud
noise with the decibel level set by them. However, reminiscent of the Milgram study, there was no
actual opponent and no one actually received the blast.
Bushman used what is referred to as a staged manipulation that they hoped would mimic or
approximate in the lab conditions that lead to interpersonal violence in the real world. The essay
writing exercise served as a ruse to insult and anger at least half of the research participants
randomly assigned to that study. Continuing with the deception, the researchers had participants
playing a competitive reaction-time game rigged so that they always won. Would insulted
participants differ from praised participants in delivering loud noises to their opponents who they
believed had earlier graded their essays? The premise was straightforward: Insulted parties would
respond aggressively in a competitive game against an opponent they believed had offended them
Notice how closely tied a theoretical construct is to its independent and dependent variables. Here
theoretical contruct was put into operationalized form when participants were randomly assigneed
to study condiwion in wchi their essay received the worst grades. Random assigned participants
have essays praised or insulted-staged manipulation. Bush also had his participants take a pencil-
and-paper test of narcissism, a personality trait that is characterized by an inflated sense of
importance and self-esteem. This represented another theoretical construct in their study. Based on
prior works, he theorized that people with high levels of narcissism would respond aggressively
toward a person they believed to have insulted them. As he reported, his findings indicated
increased levels of aggressive responses as measured by decibel level of noise delivered by
insulted participants who had scored high on narcissism against the person they believed had
offended them by trashing their essays.
See 4.1 on page 99.
Perceived threat is an example of what is referred to as an intverning variable, which is defind as a
hypothetical internal state that is used to explain relationship between independent and dependent
variables. intverning variables repretent theoretical contrscuts that link inputs or conditions
resewratcher use as their indepdent variables with outsbut used to measure them.To summarize, the structure of a scientific theory begins with abstract constructs, which in turn are
translated or operationalized into measurable independent and dependent variables.
-relationship between indepdendt and dependent variables wil be connected by intervening
variables, hyptotheical internals states.
Now lets return to the more uplifting research question of mental health vs. mental illness, which
Keyes studied. In this paper, Keyes adopted a conceptual framework rooted in the school of
psychology known as positive psychology. Positive psychology seeks to learn about human
thriving, flourishing, optimism, resilience, joy, and capabilities. Positive psychology researchers
ask: What is the nature of the effectively functioning human being who successfully applies
evolved adaptations and learned skills?
Through the lens of positive psychology, Keyes aimed to flesh out the meanings of 2 theoretical
constructs, mental health and mental illness. From his positive psychology perspective, mental
health constituted well-being or happiness. For defining the construct of mental illness, Keyes
turned to a familiar source, the APAs DSM-III-R. In general, the DSM defines 2 components that
are both necessary in order to establish the presence of a diagnosable mental disorder. One
component is the presence of particular symptoms of a specific disorder, and these lists of
symptoms are presented in the DSM; the other component is evidence that the symptoms have
interfered with aspects of everyday functioning in such areas as work, leisure, school, and
For these dual constructs of mental health and mental illness, Keyes used several methods of
measurement that served as operational def