Depression and social information processing

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Miller, David
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The Department of Psychology may prepare students with a liberal study, or for work in academia or professional education for law or health-services. Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method to human behavior and mental processes, as well as have ample knowledge of psychological theory and method.
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One hundred thirteen undergraduate students successfully met dual criteria (BDI scores and DACL scores) to be classified as depressed (n = 58) or nondepressed (n = 55) for this experiment. These subjects were experimentally compelled either to succeed (n = 53) or to fail (n = 60) on an anagrams task, then asked to make internal/external attributions about the causes of their task outcomes. A linear regression-type ANOVA was performed on the attributional measure, and a significant Mood x Outcome interaction emerged, as predicted by the revised learned helplessness theory of depression. The mood discrepancy was clearest in the success outcome, with nondepressed subjects making notably more internal attributions than depressed subjects. Subjects were also asked to estimate what percentage of peers would outperform them on the task. There was no mood-related difference on this measure;Subjects were then given bogus consensus feedback that a majority of the other students either succeeded (n = 61) or failed (n = 52) on the same task. They were again asked to make internal/external causal attributions about their own outcomes, as well as that of their peers. Linear regression-type ANOVAs were performed on both the self-referenced and the other-referenced attributions following the feedback. With regard to self-referenced attributions, the Mood x Outcome interaction was no longer significant, demonstrating no mood-related discrepancy in attributions about outcomes after consensus information was provided. However, a highly significant Mood x Feedback interaction emerged, indicating that depressives who learned that others failed were considerably more internal in their attributions than those who learned that others succeeded, while the opposite pattern emerged for nondepressives. These results are discussed in terms of social comparison theory, which suggests that depressed individuals compare downwardly, while people in general compare upwardly. Implications for the maintenance of depressive affect and for an attributional therapy of depression are also discussed;With regard to attributions about others' performance, no main effect for mood emerged.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1986