Information 'State of Mind test'
This information is based on a study written in Dutch: Cognitieve balans van negatieve en positieve gedachten en examenvrees. {Cognitive balance of negative and positive thoughts and test anxiety} R. M. Topman, W. Chr. Kleijn & H.M. van der Ploeg in Gedragstherapie, 1997, 30, 85-102)


The State of Mind (SOM) model postulates an association between psychological well-being and an optimal balance of positive and negative thoughts (Schwartz, & Garamoni, 1986). Research in different fields confirms the SOM model.
- Too many positive thoughts in relation to negative thoughts can lead to a 'positive monologue' and 'unrealistic optimism'.
- Too many negative thoughts in relation to positive thoughts can lead to a 'negative dialogue of conflict' and can be called 'unrealistic pessimism'.

The present study compares the SOM ratio [(positive thoughts / (positive + negative thoughts)] and other measures of thoughts in relation to anxiety, test anxiety, optimism and academic performance. This study is part of a more extensive study of the relationship between these variables and study approach and study behaviour of first year students (Topman et al, 1992; Kleijn et al, 1994).
Positive and negative thoughts are defined by a simple procedure which combines the advantages of thought listing and questionnaires. This procedure (first step: 'note your own thoughts down'; second step: 'rate the effects of your own thoughts') has proven to work satisfactory.

As predicted the SOM ratio of testanxious and low performing students is shifted in an unfavourable direction, but the hypothesis that the calculation of a ratio of positive and negative thoughts gives extra information is only partly confirmed. The quantity of negative thoughts is most clearly related to (test)anxiety and optimism. No significant relation is found between different measures of thoughts and academic performance.

The notion that in general a SOM ratio of 0.6 represents an optimal balance of positive and negative thoughts is only partly confirmed. The value of the SOM ratio seems to be context dependent. In this study we found as average SOM ratio:

  • high testanxious students: 0.49
  • medium testanxious students: 0.66
  • low testanxious students: 0.81

    Results indicate a significant relation between the level of test anxiety and the quantity of negative thoughts. At the same time students with high levels of test anxiety have, in contrast with students with low and moderate levels of test anxiety, very few positive thoughts.
    Clinical experiences indicate a strong relationship between the occurrence of many negative thoughts and few positive thoughts on the one hand and avoidance behaviour and weak approach behaviour (low effort and postponement of preparation for the test) on the other hand. So the objectives of the treatment of high testanxious students should not only be the development of adequate coping with negative thoughts, but also the development of more positive thoughts. The 'SOM test' can be used to define the content of thoughts as well the balance of positive and negative thoughts in the different phases of the treatment. Further research will focus on the relation of procrastination and the SOM-ratio and the differentiation of anxiety and low conscientiousness.

    • Kleijn, W.Chr., Ploeg, H.M. van der & Topman, R.M. (1994). Cognition, study-habits, test anxiety and academic performance. Psychological Reports, 75, 1219-1226.
    • Schwartz, R.M., & Garamoni, G.L. (1986). A structural model of positive and negative states of mind: Asymmetry in the internal dialogue. In P.C. Kendall (Ed.), Advances in cognitive-behavioral research and therapy (Vol 4, pp 1-62). New York: Academic Press.
    • Topman, R.M., Kleijn, W.Chr., Ploeg, H.M. van der & Masset, E.A.E.A. (1992). Test anxiety, cognitions, study habits and academic performance: a prospective study. In K.A. Hagvet & T. Backer Johnsen (Eds.), Advances in Test Anxiety Research, (Volume 7, pp 221-240). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.
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