March 22, 2022

3:00 p.m.

This event is for invited researchers only.

Scholar presenter:

Katrin Heucher, University of Michigan

Seed generators:

Allison S. Gabriel, University of Arizona
Wendy Smith, University of Delaware


Paradox mindset and well-being: The case of a global pandemic

Talk description:

The sudden and uncertain changes occurring throughout the pandemic have impacted people’s lives significantly. With uncertainty evolving, it is not surprising that researchers have already found an overall negative effect of the pandemic on people’s subjective well-being (Saladino et al, 2020). The Covid-19 pandemic experience has been characterized as rife with paradoxes (Pradies et al., 2021) such as anticipation/adaptation; solidity/flexibility; boldness/prudence; compassion/hardiness; updating information/being aware that information may not mean knowing, etc. (Giustiniano et al, 2020).

Paradox theory in organizational studies defines paradox as “contradictory yet interrelated elements [that] exist simultaneously and persist over time” (Smith & Lewis, 2011). It views paradox as a double-edged sword, potentially sparking creativity, and peak performance, but also spurring anxiety that can raise stress and counterproductive defenses (Lewis, 2000). Whether people whither or thrive with paradox, largely depends on their approach or mindset. With the pandemic, building on previous research (e.g. Giustiniano et al, 2020; Pradies et al., 2021) we can expect paradox to be salient for individuals. Yet, even with paradoxes having become salient in our society, the well-being outcomes are not the same.

The Covid-19 Psychological Research Consortium Study (C19PRC Study) offers a unique opportunity of analyzing longitudinal quantitative mental health data collected during the Covid-19 pandemic, in combination with qualitative interviews with a subset of the survey participants. Specifically, I suggest building connections between the quantitative (McBride et al., 2020) and qualitative data to see how a paradox mindset coincides with different outcomes related to well-being and mental health. Not only, can this lead to insights into whether support structures could benefit from training people with a paradox mindset, but it also has the potential to aid in dealing with increasing climate anxiety (Wu et al., 2020) and other challenges. I envision that the findings of this study can help inform the improved management of future public (mental) health crises.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubators here and direct questions about individual sessions to