Kristen Lauer, Psy.D., is a 2018 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Theodore Ellenhorn, PhD, ABPP, Committee Chair
  • James Sparrell, PhD, Committee Member
  • Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member


cool, adolescence, phenomenological psychology, social constructionism

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This qualitative study explored the phenomenological experience of cool as retrospectively reported. I proposed cool as a phenomenological concept and advocate for the consideration of cool as relevant to clinical psychology through first, a literature review of related academic research and second, by identifying the information gap around cool as it intersects with clinical psychology. I utilized Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to inform analysis and exploration of participant narrative responses collected through an online survey. Participants consisted of 25 individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who endorsed having experienced cool at some point in their life. In sharing the findings, I first highlighted the emergent themes of the experience of cool that were most common across participant responses: cool is a positive experience, cool exists in a social context, possession of positive attributes, and challenging adversity/oppression. I also described individual voices that deviated or provided alternate ideas to those found in the emergent themes: (a) difficult to describe, (b) physical appearance, (c) emotional defense, (d) social status/superiority, and (e) denial of cool. Participants also described what makes others cool which includes positive personal attributes, affect regulation and confidence, and apathy to cool. I follow the reporting of findings by acknowledging my active role as researcher in the process of the research. Exploration of the findings in the context of existing literature of cool brings to light the possibility that cool describes multiple unique concepts that are often conflated and confused: cool when a first-person experience, cool as an emotional/interpersonal defense, and cool as label placed on objects in a social setting. Ongoing conflation of these cools may lead clinicians and caregivers to misinterpret adolescents’ behaviors when seeking cool. Misinterpreting the cool may result in misguided responses from adults in authority positions to youth behaviors and ineffective interventions to support youth across their development.


Kristen Lauer

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-3402-3070