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Behav Ther. 2007 Jun;38(2):144-54. Epub 2007 Jan 9.

Depressive realism and attributional style: implications for individuals at risk for depression.

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Kent State University, Department of Psychology, 44242, USA.


Prior research has found that depressed individuals are more realistic in their interpretations of certain events than nondepressed individuals. However, the implications of this finding for the etiology of depressive disorders have never been clarified. The current investigation sought to remedy this situation by exploring realism in the context of a well-validated, cognitive diathesis-stress theory of the etiology of a subtype of depression: hopelessness theory (Abramson, L. Y., Metalsky, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological Review, 96, 358-372). A sample of 239 college students, including groups of participants with depressogenic versus nondepressogenic attributional styles, recorded the causes they assigned to events; the extent to which their attributions were objectively realistic was evaluated. A comparison of the degree of objectivity was also made between dysphoric and nondysphoric individuals. Contrary to expectations derived from the depressive realism hypothesis, dysphoric individuals exhibited less realistic attributions as compared to nondysphoric individuals. Further, individuals at risk for depression evidenced a pessimistic bias, while individuals not at risk evidenced an optimistic bias.

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