Mind Over Monsters

Supporting Youth Mental Health with Compassionate Challenge

Alarming statistics in recent years indicate that mental health problems like depression and anxiety have been skyrocketing among youth. While major stakeholders argue over whether we need greater compassion or whether so-called “coddling” might in fact be driving up rates of mental health problems and we should instead introduce more challenge, psychologist and professor Sarah Rose Cavanagh presents extensive evidence to argue that this is a false duality. Instead, she proposes that first we need to create learning and living environments characterized by compassion, and then we need to guide our youth into practices that encourage challengeIn Mind over Monsters, Cavanagh highlights the voices of actual students and supplements these insights with science sourced not just from psychology and sociology but also pedagogy, neuroscience, and critically evaluated peer-reviewed research. To identify solutions, Cavanagh interviews a roster of experts across the country who are dedicating their lives working with young people to help them actualize their goals. The result of these combined sources of inquiry indicates that to encourage youth mental health, we need to create what Cavanagh calls compassionate challenge–learning environments that help our students face their fears, to vanquish their monsters, but in a supportive, safe, and even playful way. Mind over Monsters bridges the opposing sides of the youth mental health crisis and offers a new path out–one that does not just treat symptoms but encourages the overall health of young people.

“Sarah Rose Cavanagh’s Mind Over Monsters is the book we need now—now, when the teen mental health crisis has reached alarming proportions. With thoughtful nuance, clear-eyed observation, and a sure grasp of the evidence, Cavanagh delivers a message to parents, teachers, and everyone else who cares about adolescents: what young people need from us is compassionate support and invigorating challenge. Her book is both reassuring and inspiring—a must-read for everyone who knows and loves a teenager.”
—Annie Murphy Paul, author of The Extended Mind
“Most current rhetoric about teaching and learning tends to frame challenging students and acting with compassion as mutually exclusive enterprises. But, as Sarah Rose Cavanagh reminds us in this beautifully-written defense of humane teaching, that dichotomy has always been a false choice. The crises we face are monstrous problems indeed. Mind Over Monsters neither evades nor surrenders to this bleak reality, but gives us the tools to create learning spaces offering both sanctuary and liberation. It is an essential book.”
Kevin Gannon, Director of the Center for Advancement of Faculty Excellence at Queens University of Charlotte
“Like a conversation with a smart, hopeful, and passionate friend, Sarah artfully shares her journey with anxiety and mixes in interviews with diverse students and experts. Educators, parents, and students will appreciate her call for learning environments that provide a sense of security and belonging so students can safely engage in risk and overcome their fears.”
—Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy, Authors of Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom
This is an important book. It makes a valuable contribution to the literature on teaching and learning, tackling an urgent mental health crisis and how we can build the learning environments that will help students overcome that crisis and thrive. As a bonus, readers will find Cavanagh’s writing witty and imaginative, giving us insights that can transform college experiences.
Ken Bain, President of the Best Teachers Institute and author of What the Best College Teachers Do and Super Courses,  The Future of Teaching and Learning
“This book fucking rules, and y’all should read it.”
Kevin Gannon, author of Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto


Written for educators, Spark of Learning argues that thinking strategically about emotion in the classroom can enliven the classroom experience for teachers and students alike.

Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. In friendly, readable prose, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that if you as an educator want to capture your students’ attention, harness their working memory, bolster their long-term retention, and enhance their motivation, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design.

“A phenomenal contribution to the scholarship on teaching and learning. Cavanagh immediately engages her audience through narrative and humor and manages to cover almost every major insight from the literature.”
—Elizabeth Barre, Rice University
“Cavanagh urges us to take seriously the role of emotions in student learning, offering research-driven advice on how to grab students’ attention, motivate them, keep them engaged, and maximize chances of learning. This book will be of significant interest to faculty concerned about effective pedagogy.”
—Jay R. Howard, Butler University


A collective consciousness in which we share consensus thoughts, emotions, and opinions; a phenomenon whereby a group of people function as if with a single mind.

In this provocative book, Sarah Rose Cavanagh provides an overview of contemporary social neuroscience, a consideration of the degree to which the advent of smartphones and social media has amplified both the promises and perils of our hypersociality, and an appeal to attend to the collective aspects of our well-being. Leading a narrative journey from the site of the Charlottesville riots to the boardrooms of Facebook, considering such diverse topics as zombies, cults, and honeybees, Cavanagh leaves no stone unturned in her quest to understand our contemporary challenges.

“[Cavanagh] masterfully bridges the world between research and popular narrative nonfiction in her fascinating, beautifully written book.”
―Chicago Tribune (John Warner)
“With wit and curiosity, Cavanagh explores the notion that human beings are not so much solitary individuals as profoundly social creatures… After raising questions about forms of technology we take for granted, she offers sensible, workable suggestions as to how we can navigate the gap between the individual and the collective in everyday life. An engaging new perspective on human networking.”
―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Hivemind provides a fascinating tour of research that reveals our social nature, for good and for bad. Cavanagh is a natural teacher whose enthusiasm for psychology shines through on every page. Whether you’re looking to have healthier technology habits, develop better relationships with others, or address societal challenges, this book will give you food for thought and wisdom to take action.”
—Kelly McGonigal, author of The Joy of Movement and The Willpower Instinct
“Cavanagh brings you along on her journey through an exquisite collection of scholarly knowledge and empirical insight to ground both your mind and your gut. From zombies to bees, moral panics to conspiracy theories, Hivemind mixes the dark with the light to help readers find a path through a very destabilizing present”
Danah Boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
“Thank goodness that Sarah Rose Cavanagh is here to help us make sense of what can feel like a deeply polarized and tribal world. This fascinating book guides us through the nuanced landscape of why we think and behave the way we do–online and off–and offers a much-needed vision for how we can find our way back from the edge.”
―Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Wired to Create

Emotion and Motivation

Emotion and Motivation, Fourth Edition, offers a comprehensive and integrated survey of the field of affective science. The text covers the major theories of emotion in detail and reviews both classic and cutting-edge research on emotional processes from various subdisciplines. New to this fourth edition is the addition of content on motivation science throughout the text, including an entirely new chapter on goal setting. The authors’ thoughtful engagement with ongoing controversies, contradictory findings, methodological limitations, and replication failures encourages critical thinking. While highly rigorous, the text is also student-friendly, with a light, humorous tone, real-world stories, and an intuitive structure. Emotion and Motivation, Fourth Edition, addresses the questions undergraduates are most likely to ask: Why do we have emotions? How do they affect our lives? What motivates human behavior? and How can we improve well-being?