Martin E. P. Seligman's research while affiliated with University of Pennsylvania and other places

Publications (159)

Preprint
Pragmatic prospection is the ability to think deeply about the future in order to identify and to work productively toward goals. It involves imagining desirable future outcomes, setting sensible goals, making plans, and flexibly executing those plans. We conducted an exploratory survey of full-time working U.S. adults (N = 1541), measuring pragmat...
Preprint
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Technology now makes it possible to understand efficiently and at large scale how people use language to reveal their everyday thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Written text has been analyzed through both theory-based, closed-vocabulary methods from the social sciences as well as data-driven, open-vocabulary methods from computer science, but thes...
Article
Agency, the theme of my life’s work, consists of efficacy, future-minded optimism, and imagination. I here attempt to trace the history of agency in Western thought over the Greco-Roman epoch. The Iliad presents mortals without any agency, the gods having it all; whereas in the Odyssey, humans have considerable agency, and the gods less. Later, Soc...
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Mattering, one’s sense of the difference one makes in the world, has been variously described in psychological and philosophical literatures. We propose the experience of mattering is tied to the perceived impact of one’s actions and is best understood as an action-oriented, context-dependent construct. We introduce the Organizational Mattering Sca...
Article
I describe three squabbles with behaviorism and the reaction: Cognitive Theory of Avoidance Learning, Preparedness and Learned Helplessness.
Chapter
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2019 Positive Education Chapter in 2019 Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report Seligman, M. E. P., Adler, A. (2019). Positive Education. In J. F. Helliwell, R. Layard, & J. Sachs (Eds.), Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report: 2019. (Pp. 52 - 71). Global Council for Wellbeing and Happiness.
Article
As president of APA in 1998, I organized researchers and practitioners to work on building well-being, not just on the traditional task of reducing ill-being. Substantial research then found that well-being causes many external benefits, including better physical and mental health. Among the applications of Positive Psychology are national psycholo...
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I was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency in the spring of 2002 about how the research on learned helplessness could help captured Americans resist and evade torture and interrogation. There was no discussion of how learned helplessness could be used with detainees nor any mention of the interrogation of detainees. James Mitchell and Bruce Jes...
Preprint
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A recent preprint by Brown and Coyne titled, "No Evidence That Twitter Language Reliably Predicts Heart Disease: A Reanalysis of Eichstaedt et al." asserts to re-analyze our 2015 article published in Psychological Science, “Twitter Language Predicts Heart Disease Mortality”, disputing its primary findings. While we welcome scrutiny of the study, Br...
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This study prospectively examined psychological strengths targeted in U.S. Army training programs as predictors of psychiatric diagnosis in active duty soldiers. At baseline, the cohort (140,584 soldiers) was without psychiatric disorder. Soldiers were then followed for 2 yr and classified as healthy, or acquiring a psychiatric diagnosis (adjustmen...
Article
Seligman (2011) hypothesized that PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) are the elements of well-being. Goodman, Disabato, Kashdan & Kaufmann (2017) reported strong evidence that subjective well-being is the final common path of such elements and their data are entirely consistent with Seligman’s hypothesi...
Article
In 2002, we discovered that self-control “outdoes” talent in predicting academic success during adolescence. Since then, a surfeit of longitudinal evidence has affirmed the importance of self-control to achieving everyday goals that conflict with momentary temptations. In parallel, research that has “lumped” self-control with other facets of Big Fi...
Technical Report
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Positive education views school as a place where students not only cultivate their intellectual minds, but also develop a broad set of character strengths, virtues, and competencies, which together support their well-being. What this looks like differs from country to country and school-to-school, but at its core is the 'character + academics' appr...
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The U.S. Army developed the Global Assessment Tool (GAT) to monitor psychosocial fitness and well-being among soldiers and provide a means to objectively gauge the success of newly implemented resilience training programs. Despite its widespread use (taken over 5.2 million times) and stated utility for program evaluation, there is relatively little...
Article
Some inadequacies of the classical conditioning analysis of phobias are discussed: phobias are highly resistant to extinction, whereas laboratory fear conditioning, unlike avoidance conditioning, extinguishes rapidly; phobias comprise a nonarbitrary and limited set of objects, whereas fear conditioning is thought to occur to an unlimited range of c...
Article
Learned helplessness, the failure to escape shock induced by uncontrollable aversive events, was discovered half a century ago. Seligman and Maier (1967) theorized that animals learned that outcomes were independent of their responses—that nothing they did mattered—and that this learning undermined trying to escape. The mechanism of learned helples...
Article
Objective: Temporal orientation refers to individual differences in the relative emphasis one places on the past, present, or future, and is related to academic, financial, and health outcomes. We propose and evaluate a method for automatically measuring temporal orientation through language expressed on social media. Method: Judges rated the te...
Article
Objectives: Prospection, the mental representation of possible futures, is usually adaptive. When it goes awry, however, it disrupts emotion and motivation. A negative view of the future is typically seen as one symptom of depression, but we suggest that such negative prospection is the core causal element of depression. Here, we describe the empi...
Conference Paper
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People vary widely in their temporal orientation—how often they emphasize the past, present, and future—and this affects their finances, health, and happiness. Traditionally, temporal orientation has been assessed by self-report questionnaires. In this paper, we develop a novel behavior-based assessment using human language on Facebook. We first cr...
Article
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This report describes a groundbreaking military–civilian collaboration that benefits from an Army and Department of Defense (DoD) big data business intelligence platform called the Person-Event Data Environment (PDE). The PDE is a consolidated data repository that contains unclassified but sensitive manpower, training, financial, health, and medica...
Article
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Hostility and chronic stress are known risk factors for heart disease, but they are costly to assess on a large scale. We used language expressed on Twitter to characterize community-level psychological correlates of age-adjusted mortality from atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD). Language patterns reflecting negative social relationships, disengag...
Article
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Language use is a psychologically rich, stable individual difference with well-established correlations to personality. We describe a method for assessing personality using an open-vocabulary analysis of language from social media. We compiled the written language from 66,732 Facebook users and their questionnaire-based self-reported Big Five perso...
Article
The theory of strengths also implies a theory of disorder that proceeds from knowing what is right in a person: pathology is the opposite, or the absence, or the excess of the strengths. Chris Peterson left a table that details this theory. I discuss the relation of the pathologies so derived to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psy...
Article
People commonly experience positive psychological changes after adversity, but little is known about how this growth happens. We propose that engagement with new possibilities – seeing ‘doors opening’ in the wake of loss – is key in this process. We hypothesized that people would report greater growth if they saw new possibilities in the aftermath...
Article
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema's life work concerned rumination, gender differences in depression, and the "transdiagnostic" processes in mental illness. The articles in this special section expand on these themes. Her work on transdiagnostic processes leads us to consider that the real mental illnesses are not the congeries of symptoms in the Diagnostic and...
Article
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The Department of Defense (DoD) strives to efficiently manage the large volumes of administrative data collected and repurpose this information for research and analyses with policy implications. This need is especially present in the United States Army, which maintains numerous electronic databases with information on more than one million Active-...
Article
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Objective: We present a new open language analysis approach that identifies and visually summarizes the dominant naturally occurring words and phrases that most distinguished each Big Five personality trait. Method: Using millions of posts from 69,792 Facebook users, we examined the correlation of personality traits with online word usage. Our a...
Article
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We introduce a new method, differential language analysis (DLA), for studying human development in which computational linguistics are used to analyze the big data available through online social media in light of psychological theory. Our open vocabulary DLA approach finds words, phrases, and topics that distinguish groups of people based on 1 or...
Article
Inescapable shocks of short (.5 sec) and long (5 sec) duration interfered with subsequent shock escape in rats. In addition, there were no differences between groups that received the pretreatment shocks and testing in the same or different apparatuses. These results are consistent with the learned helplessness account but conflict with recent lear...
Article
The Pavlovian conditioning of drinking in rats was demonstrated and shown to be under stimulus control. Distinctive conditioned stimuli previously paired with injections of thirst-inducing hypertonic saline-procaine enhanced drinking over stimuli paired with no injections. Extinction, reconditioning, and reextinction also were demonstrated.
Article
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We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age. In our open-vocabulary technique, the data itself drives a comprehensive exploration of language that distinguis...
Article
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The language used in tweets from 1,300 different US counties was found to be predictive of the subjective well-being of people living in those counties as measured by representative surveys. Topics, sets of co-occurring words derived from the tweets using LDA, improved accuracy in predicting life satisfaction over and above standard demographic and...
Article
Evidence of prospective processes is increasingly common in psychological research, which suggests the fruitfulness of a theoretical framework for mind and brain built around future orientation. No metaphysics of determinism or indeterminism is presupposed by this framework, nor do considerations of scientific method require determinism-successful...
Article
Prospection (Gilbert & Wilson, 2007), the representation of possible futures, is a ubiquitous feature of the human mind. Much psychological theory and practice, in contrast, has understood human action as determined by the past and viewed any such teleology (selection of action in light of goals) as a violation of natural law because the future can...
Conference Paper
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Language in social media reveals a lot about people's personality and mood as they discuss the activities and relationships that constitute their everyday lives. Although social media are widely studied, researchers in computational linguistics have mostly focused on prediction tasks such as sentiment analysis and authorship attribution. In this pa...
Article
The study of well-being is hampered by the multiplicity of approaches, but focusing on a single approach begs the question of what “well-being” really is. We analyze how well-being is defined according to the three main kinds of theories: “Liking” approaches (generally adopted by psychologists), “Wanting” approaches (predominant among economists),...
Article
During the past few decades, the psychological trait of optimism has garnered an increasing amount of interest from scientists, and numerous studies have now shown that optimism is associated with important benefits. The present review summarizes the main findings from this body of research. We begin by describing the two main ways in which researc...
Article
This chapter examines the literature on refugee well-being within a positive psychological framework and evaluates calls that the field should complement the medical model with a positive psychology approach in evaluating the mental health of highly traumatized displaced populations. The "medical model", which has emphasized the diagnosis of psychi...
Article
[Clin Psychol Sci Prac 18: 275–299, 2011] Despite decades of research on the etiology and treatment of depression, a significant proportion of the population is affected by the disorder, fails to respond to treatment, and is plagued by relapse. Six prominent scientists—Aaron Beck, Richard Davidson, Fritz Henn, Steven Maier, Helen Mayberg, and Marti...
Article
Seligman responds to the comments made about the January 2011 American Psychologist Special Issue on Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF). Seligman proposed an entire issue of on the topic of CSF to encourage psychologists to come to the aid of our government, and he urges psychologists not to be discouraged by this tactic. He and his coauthors in t...
Article
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Many experts now recognize that income is not a measure that alone captures the wellbeing of individuals, and governments around the world are starting to rethink the ways in which they measure the welfare of their citizens. Wellbeing is best understood as a multifaceted phenomenon that can be assessed by measuring a wide array of subjective and ob...
Article
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The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program is designed to increase psychological strength and positive performance and to reduce the incidence of maladaptive responses of the entire U.S. Army. Based on the principles of positive psychology, CSF is a historically unique approach to behavioral health in a large (1.1 million members) organization...
Article
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Pleasure, engagement, and meaning are all unique predictors of individuals’ well-being. We explored the relationship between the pursuit of each of these pathways and well-being. Participants (N = 13,565) visited a website and completed a measure about their orientation toward pleasure, engagement, and meaning as a pathway to happiness as well as m...
Article
This chapter discusses the link between pessimism and optimism and the onset and recurrence of depression. Optimistic individuals tend to be happier, more successful, and more resistant to a variety of mental disorders, including depression. Pessimists, on the other hand, worry about the future, doubt they will reach their goals, and expect the wor...
Chapter
There are two approaches to the operationalization and assessment of the constructs of optimism and pessimism in the field of psychology. Theorists and researchers have operationalized and assessed these constructs in a direct manner - they ask individuals to report their generalized expectations about the future- dispositional optimism and pessimi...
Article
I propose a new field: positive health. Positive health describes a state beyond the mere absence of disease and is definable and measurable. Positive health can be operationalised by a combination of excellent status on biological, subjective, and functional measures. By mining existing longitudinal studies, we can test the hypothesis that positiv...
Article
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Why are certain character strengths more associated with life satisfaction than others? A sample of U.S. adults (N = 12,439) completed on-line surveys in English measuring character strengths, orientations to happiness (engagement, pleasure, and meaning), and life satisfaction, and a sample of Swiss adults (N = 445) completed paper-and-pencil versi...
Article
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We investigated cultural influences on the distribution of character strengths, gender differences in character strengths, and the relationship of happiness to character strengths. Young adults from the United States (n=1099) and Japan (n=308) completed the English or Japanese versions of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths. American and Ja...
Article
div class="page" title="Page 1"> [ According to the authors of this article, the growing unhappiness of law- yers, particularly young lawyers, stems from three causes: (1) Lawyers are selected for their pessimism (or “prudence”) and this generalizes to the rest of their lives; (2) Young associates hold jobs that are characterized by high pressure...
Article
Posted 5/8/2002. Three studies reported on depressive symptoms (DSs) in mainland Chinese children. Study 1 showed that DSs were widely present in Chinese children. There were more symptoms in boys, in younger children, in children of less educated and less wealthy parents, in children from multi-child families, in children from single-parent famili...
Article
This article was posted June 26, 2001. Although the National Advisory Mental Health Council's report (see record 2001-03236-001) is on the whole very positive for the future of prevention research, it has three problems. First, it is a creature of the disease model, accepting uncritically the discontinuity of the mental "disorders." Second, it pay...
Article
This article was posted June 26, 2001. Although the National Advisory Mental Health Council's report (see record 2001-03236-001) is on the whole very positive for the future of prevention research, it has three problems. First, it is a creature of the disease model, accepting uncritically the discontinuity of the mental "disorders." Second, it pays...
Article
This study examined two senses in which pessimism might be a risk factor for depressive mood among older adults. The first was that a pessimistic explanatory style would predict changes toward depressive mood when combined with stressful life events. The second was that predictive pessimism, or thinking that bad events will happen in the future, wo...
Article
The role of a cognitive diathesis-stress model in predicting changes in alcohol consumption was examined. This study evaluated the interaction of attributional style with negative life events in predicting changes in beer, wine, spirits, and overall alcohol consumption. 93 undergraduate participants completed the Khavari Alcohol Test, Negative Life...
Article
This article analyzes the by now accepted phenomenon of lawyer depression/pessimism and relates it to psychological literature and studies. The field of positive psychology, championed by Prof. Seligman, offers three causes for demoralization among lawyers: (1) pessimism; (2) low decision latitude and (3) a "zero-sum" mindset. As to the first two,...
Article
Posted May 3, 2000. D. B. Fishman (see record 2000-15683-001) argues that practitioners are not benefiting much from efficacy or effectiveness studies, largely because the context in which therapy occurs is so very much more complex than can be captured in laboratory efficacy studies; thus, the practitioner does not know how to apply evidence-base...
Article
Posted May 3, 2000. D. B. Fishman (see record 2000-15683-001) argues that practitioners are not benefiting much from efficacy or effectiveness studies, largely because the context in which therapy occurs is so very much more complex than can be captured in laboratory efficacy studies; thus, the practitioner does not know how to apply evidence-based...
Article
Full-text available
A science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless. The exclusive focus on pathology that has dominated so much of our discipline results in a model of the human being lacking the positive fe...
Article
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A brief and inexpensive cognitive–behavioral prevention program was given to university students at risk for depression. At risk was defined as being in the most pessimistic quarter of explanatory style. Two hundred thirty-one students were randomized into either an 8-week prevention workshop that met in groups of 10, once per week for 2 hr, or int...
Article
One hundred and twenty entering freshmen, at risk for depression on the basis of their pessimistic explanatory style scores, were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: an 8-week, cognitive–behavioral intervention designed to prevent future depression (seminar group) or to a no-intervention control group.We assessed the physical health of these pa...
Article
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Posted 12/21/1999. A brief and inexpensive cognitive–behavioral prevention program was given to university students at risk for depression. At risk was defined as being in the most pessimistic quarter of explanatory style. 231 students were randomized into either an 8-wk prevention workshop that met in groups of 10, once per week for 2 hr, or into...
Article
Posted 12/21/1999. 120 entering freshmen, at risk for depression on the basis of their pessimistic explanatory style scores, were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: an 8-wk, cognitive–behavioral intervention designed to prevent future depression (seminar group) or to a no-intervention control group. The authors assessed the physical health of...
Article
We have argued that psychology as a field has been preoccupied with the negative side of life and has left us with a view of human qualities that is warped and one-sided. Psychology is literally 'half-baked'. We need to bake the other half now. It is time for us to become equally concerned with the qualities and experiences that make life most wort...
Article
Many research-focused graduate students are concerned about what seems to be a lack of opportunities in academia, as well as about how to actually begin and develop a career in psychological science. Recognizing this, the American Psychological Association (APA) Science Student Council organized a distinguished scientist discussion hour at APA's 10...
Article
Many research-focused graduate students are concerned about what seems to be a lack of opportunities in academia, as well as about how to actually begin and develop a career in psychological science. Recognizing this, the American Psychological Association (APA) Science Student Council organized a distinguished scientist discussion hour at APA's 10...
Article
Memorializes Richard Solomon, one of the major learning theorists of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Solomon was named the 1st James M. Skinner University Professor of Science in 1975, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded, among other honors, the Warren Medal for research by the Society of Experimental Psychologists, t...
Article
Memorializes Richard Solomon, one of the major learning theorists of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Solomon was named the 1st James M. Skinner University Professor of Science in 1975, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded, among other honors, the Warren Medal for research by the Society of Experimental Psychologists, t...
Article
The explanatory styles of 387 law students were assessed prior to law school using the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ). Longitudinal performance measures were collected throughout law school and related to each student's initial explanatory style. In contrast to studies with undergraduates, students who made stable, global, and internal att...
Article
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A total of 613 subjects, including257 White American students, 312 mainland Chinese students, and 44 Chinese American students, completed the Attributional Style Questionnaire. It was found that (a) mainland Chinese were more pessimistic than Chinese Americans, who were more pessimistic than White Americans, (b) mainland Chinese were less self-blam...
Article
Well-founded criticisms of the Consumer Reports (CR; 1995) study of psychotherapy include possible bias of the CR sample; limitations of self-report; and the limitations of cross-sectional, retrospective data. Poorly founded criticisms concern "consumer satisfaction" and the claim that the remarkably good effects of long-term therapy resulted from...
Article
Replies to comments by E. Hunt, T. Brock et al, and J. Mintz et al (see records 84-04782, 04763, and 04792, respectively) on M. E. P. Seligman's (see record 1996-13324-001) reanalysis of the 1995 Consumer Reports ( CR) survey of the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Seligman contends that effectiveness studies that correct for the methodological sh...
Article
Consumer Reports (1995, November) published an article which concluded that patients benefited very substantially from psychotherapy, that long-term treatment did considerably better than short-term treatment, and that psychotherapy alone did not differ in effectiveness from medication plus psychotherapy. Furthermore, no specific modality of psycho...
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This research examined whether attributional style is more closely related to depressive symptoms for some people than for others. In Study 1, depressed patients voicing more explanations for negative events showed (nonsignificantly) higher correlations between attributional style and depressive symptoms. In Study 2, subjects reporting a tendency t...
Article
The explanatory style scores of George Bush and Saddam Hussein were derived using the content analysis of verbatim explanations technique for periods preceding military actions or political conflict These leaders' actions were rated on scales of aggression-passivity and risk-caution Regression and correlational analyses show that increased levels o...
Article
Research based on Seligman's model indicates that a pessimistic explanatory style predicts increased frequency of depression, poorer physical health, and lower levels of achievement. The data show that persons who have a pessimistic outlook on life are more frequent users of the medical and mental health care delivery systems. This paper describes...
Article
Responds to M. D. Kroll's (see record 1994-29393-001) comments on the S. Sethi and M. E. Seligman (see record 1994-01401-001) finding of a positive relationship between individuals' level of religious fundamentalism and their measured optimism. Following the recommendation of Kroll, the internality–externality factor was removed, and new ANOVAs w...
Article
Research based on Seligman's model indicates that a pessimistic explanatory style predicts increased frequency of depression, poorer physical health, and lower levels of achievement. The data show that persons who have a pessimistic outlook on life are more frequent users of the medical and mental health care delivery systems. This paper describes...
Article
Is optimism heritable? We gave the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ), a measure of optimism, to 115 monozygotic twin pairs (MZ) and 27 dizygotic twin pairs (DZ). The intraclass correlations of the ASQ scores were 0.48 for MZ twins (P < 0.0001) and 0 for DZ twins. Though the sample size of DZ twins is small, these results suggest that there ma...
Article
Explanatory style from nine religious groups, representing fundamentalist, moderate, and liberal viewpoints, was investigated by questionnaire and by blind content analysis of their sermons and liturgy. Fundamentalist individuals were significantly more optimistic by questionnaire than those from moderate religions, who were in turn more optimistic...
Article
A 5-year longitudinal study investigated the interrelationships among children's experiences of depressive symptoms, negative life events, explanatory style, and helplessness behaviors in social and achievement situations. The results revealed that early in childhood, negative events, but not explanatory style, predicted depressive symptoms; later...
Article
Recent studies suggest that cognitive therapy may reduce risk following successful treatment of depression. Although not conclusive, these studies suggest that patients treated with cognitive therapy may be at less than half the risk for subsequent symptom return following treatment termination than are patients treated pharmacologically. Change in...