Middle and High School Workshop on Mismatch, Mental Health, and the Teenage Experience

Being a teenager is hard enough. But when you look at the experience from the perspective of modern behavioral science, the experience has even more challenges than one might think on the surface. Mismatch exists when an organism finds itself in environmental conditions that are mismatched from the conditions that surrounded the ancestral conditions of that organism. Given that humans stopped living nomadic lifestyles only 10,000 years ago (a blink of an eye relative to how long humans have been around), our world today is filled with mismatches. And many of these mismatches affect the lives of all teenagers every single day.

Consider the following:

  • Our pre-agrarian ancestors regularly exercised intensively as a matter of daily living.
  • Their diet was 100% comprised of natural foods, because for most of human existence, that’s all that there was.
  • They lived in small bands that were capped at about 150; these bands included family and individuals with long-term interests of other members of the band. There were no strangers.
  • All communication was done face-to-face; communicating from behind a screen was impossible.
  • People had strong pressure to develop reputations as being trustworthy, as developing a reputation as someone who could not be trusted would have had dire consequences for oneself under such small-scale conditions.
  • … and more

And what is life like for teenagers these days?

  • They often have mostly processed (junk) food options available.
  • They don’t exercise nearly as much as is needed for our bodies to be healthy.
  • They live in social worlds with hundreds or even thousands of people, often including strangers from all over the place.
  • They primarily communicate behind screens, often with people whom they have never even met; often under anonymous conditions.
  • … and more

Dr. Glenn Geher, Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has written and lectured extensively on this issue for decades, providing important insights to adolescents and young adults in various formats, including presentations at such public schools as New Paltz Middle School and New Paltz High School.

Very recently, Dr. Geher has published several books and articles that discuss the mental health implications of mismatch–especially for adolescents and young adults. Here is a recent article of his on this topic (titled Flatten the Mental Health Curve, published by Psychology Today).

In an effort to help with the broader mental health issues being faced by young people today, Dr. Geher (who has won teaching awards for excellence from the SUNY Chancellor as well as the SUNY New Paltz Alumni Association) is available to give talks at schools pitched for Middle or High School students on this topic. To book Dr. Geher for such a presentation, please contact him at geherg@newpaltz.edu

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