Final Conclusions

To summarize, in health psychology research there is a need for the use of more objective measures to replace or complement self-report measures and a need for more truly multimethod studies that incorporate measures that assess a construct with different modalities (Hurrell et al., 1998). A first step in planning a health psychology study should always be a thorough explication of the theoretical constructs involved. In the process of construct explication, all facets of the construct need to be described and distinguished from related constructs. This is a crucial step at the design stage of a study because it guides the selection of appropriate measurement instruments that avoid the problems of construct overlap and, therefore, prevents weakened validity. This is particularly important when analyzing causal relationships, such as trying to understand the mechanisms between risk conditions and disease. Obviously, to conclude that certain conditions have direct causal effects for diseases, the conditions need to be clearly defined and the causal pathways (i.e., the theoretical constructs on these pathways) need to be thoroughly explicated. In many areas of health psychology this can quickly become a very complex process because different causal mechanisms can operate at the physiological, social, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral levels.

To improve research in health psychology, more collaboration between the subdisciplines in psychology is needed as well as collaboration across disciplines. Traditionally, the different disciplines that study health psychology research questions have developed and used different methodological approaches (e.g., physiological markers vs. self-report measures). Enhanced communication between disciplines will allow researchers to approach the complexity of the research questions in a more-comprehensive, less-isolated way. To achieve this, multimethod strategies have to be taught to new generations of researchers in more multidisciplinary oriented programs. Furthermore, and more so than at present, research questions should also transverse specific diseases or health behavior problems, thereby targeting the broader principles and mechanisms that underlie the health-related phenomena. This is critical for the advancement of knowledge in the field of health psychology.

Levine, 1997; McFarland, Ross, & DeCourville, 1989), sex-related stereotypes about emotional experience (Eisenberg & Lennon, 1983; LaFrance & Banaji, 1992), personality (Feldman Barrett, 1997), and intensity of emotional experience (Kahneman, 1999; Robinson & Clore, 2002b). Recent work suggests that this discrepancy is due to two different emotional reporting mechanisms: recall up to about 2 weeks is based on actual experience, and longer-term recall is based on semantic beliefs about typical experiences (Robinson & Clore, 2002a, 2002b). Thus, whereas current and short-term reports of affective experience are based on actual recall of affect episodes, retrospective reports about frequency of emotions can be biased by a number of factors associated with semantic belief structures. Such evidence for other important organizational variables is lacking.

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