Students will increase awareness of and be able to identify cultural messages that may contribute to pessimistic thinking, a known risk factor for depression.
Estimated Time: One 50-minute class period.
■ Write down lyrics to popular songs chosen by students or listen to selected songs as a class - a good example would be “The End of the World” by Allison Paige or others - and look for cognitive distortions in the lyrics. Many songs about love and broken hearts are good examples of unrealistic thinking about love and life. Although they express the emotional intensity and pain of life experiences, they use language that is exaggerated and simplistic. See if the students can fi nd lyrics of popular songs of their choosing that are examples of overly negative, extreme, and unrealistic lyrics as examples of cognitive distortions. An additional option would be to have the students compose alternative lyrics to the distorted ones that convey similar ideas, but in less extreme and negative language. This may be challenging as such moderate language will typically be less dramatic and thus lend itself less well to an effective song lyric. Thus, this latter option might work best by including students from a creative writing or English class as a cross-curriculum exercise.
■ Class discussion about cognitive distortions: Involve students in an analysis of lyrics of popular songs about love and heartbreak, many of which contain lyrics that are overly negative and extremely simplistic. Have students bring songs to be analyzed. A good example is “The End of the World,” by Allison Paige. (Others: “Don’t Bother Me,” by the Beatles, “Green Eyes,” by Coldplay, and “Always,” by Bon Jovi.)
■ Have students identify the cognitive distortions in the songs, with the aid of the complete list of cognitive distortions compiled by psychologist David Burns. As additional exercise, students could compose songs that contain less extreme language or find existing “good” song lyrics. (Could serve as cross-curriculum exercise involving a creative writing or English class.)
■ The complete list of cognitive distortions is widely available on the Internet search or see Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, M.D. (Avon Books, New York, 1980).
■ Divide the class into groups. Assign test items to each of the groups, which will be responsible for researching the answers and gathering interesting information related to the items. Findings will be presented to the entire class. As reference, students will use the student handout and each group will receive a copy of the teacher’s guide.
■ Encourage Internet research. Refer to the PIBHS website, toolkit section, to link to Internet sources or visit: http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
Sponsored by the UAMS College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry’s Partners in Behavioral Health Sciences program which is made possible by support from a Science Education Partnership Award (R25 RR15976) from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.